Books

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The New Iberia Blues’ by James Lee Burke

c.2019, Simon & Schuster
$27.99/$36.99 Canada
451 pages

Your hand is deep in a bucket of crunchy goodness.

Without popcorn, a movie is just a bunch of flickering lights, a series of stills in a row, a story that begs for butter and extra salt. Without popcorn, a film is deadly dull — or, as in the new book “The New Iberia Blues” by James Lee Burke — it’s just deadly.

Desmond Cormeir had a rough upbringing. Born in a truck stop parking lot and quickly abandoned, he was bullied as a child by peers and adults and he always seemed to be abashed about his Cajun background. Detective Dave Robicheaux knew Cormeir then, and he watched as the boy made something of himself. Robicheaux was just as proud as anyone when Cormeir became a successful filmmaker and returned to Louisiana, to his roots.

When Lucinda Arceneaux was pulled from the waters surrounding Cormeir’s house, Robicheaux figured his pride was misplaced. Lucinda had died gently, but her corpse was defiled and left in a disturbing manner. Cormeir lied about seeing the body but, oddly, he wasn’t the person Robicheaux had his eye on; instead, Cormeir’s roommate, Antoine Butterworth, seemed to be the man to watch.

Robicheaux’s new partner, a young woman by the name of Bailey Ribbons didn’t trust Butterworth. Neither did Clete Purcel, Robicheaux’s former beat partner and best friend. Butterworth was a truly strange man … but was he a murderer?

When a local fisherman was discovered rotting in a fishing net with a spear through his middle, it was obvious that someone was, possibly Hugo Tillinger, an escaped Texas convict who was spotted diving into a nearby bayou to hide. Or maybe it was Smiley Wimple, once mistaken as dead and as dangerously addled as ever. And yes, the killer could have been Butterworth.

But there was something unusual about the bodies being found: each had some tie to a tarot deck. Each corpse corresponded to a card. Each subsequent death was becoming more and more violently gruesome.

And each was getting closer to Dave Robicheaux.

Reading “The New Iberia Blues” is like sitting on a folding chair during a tornado: you’re sucked in, tipped around, lose your grip, and get a whole lot queasy before things smooth out for a minute. As it is with tornadoes and Dave Robicheaux novels, though, things ain’t over ‘til they’re over.

The only thing to do is to hang on tight, then, and keep this word handy because you’re going to need it: “ARGH!”

You’ll need it for the twists that discombobulate even the most determined armchair sleuth; try as you might, forget pre-solving this novel. Know that (argh!) bad things happen to good characters you’ve come to like in this series. And know that this book ends, and you’ll eventually have to leave the world that author James Lee Burke has placed you in. Argh!

Indeed, filled with spookiness, spirituality, and slayings a-plenty, this may be the best, most hard-to-figure-out Robicheaux novel yet. Get your hands on it today, because “The New Iberia Blues” positively pops.

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