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In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead (Dave Robicheaux Series #6)

In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead (Dave Robicheaux Series #6)

4.0 16
by James Lee Burke

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The image of the dead girl's body lingered in detective Dave Robicheaux's mind as he drove home. After seeing the young victim's corpse, the last thing he needed to come across was a drunk driver. But when he saw the Cadillac fishtail across the road, Robicheaux knew the driver was in trouble.



The image of the dead girl's body lingered in detective Dave Robicheaux's mind as he drove home. After seeing the young victim's corpse, the last thing he needed to come across was a drunk driver. But when he saw the Cadillac fishtail across the road, Robicheaux knew the driver was in trouble. What Dave didn't realize, was that by pulling the car over, he was opening his murder case wider than he could ever imagine.

The driver, Elrod Sykes, in New Iberia to star in a movie, leads Dave to the skeletal remains of a black man that had washed up in the Atchafalaya swamp. So begins a mystery that takes Dave back to an unsolved murder -- a murder that he witnessed in 1957. Haunted by the past as he confronts the gruesome present - day rape and murder of young prostitutes, Robicheaux must also contend with a new partner from the F.B.I., and the local criminal gentry. But for Dave, the answers he seeks lie somewhere in the bayou mist with the ghosts of soldiers long since forgotten...

A masterwork of detective fiction, In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead is James Lee Burke's most suspenseful work to date.

Editorial Reviews

A master...Burke writes prose as moody and memory-laden as his region.
Boston Globe
Wall Street Journal
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the sixth Dave Robicheaux mystery (following A Stained White Radiance ), Burke explores new narrative territory with qualified success, leading his Cajun detective into a series of dreamlike encounters with a troop of Confederate soldiers under Gen. John Bell Hood. Soon after the severely mutilated body of a young woman is found in a ditch outside the southern Louisiana town of New Iberia, deputy sheriff Robicheaux busts Elrod Sykes, star of a Hollywood movie being filmed nearby, for drunk driving. Sykes says a skeleton wrapped in chains was unearthed during filming in a marsh where, in 1957, Robicheaux witnessed--but remained silent about--the killing of a chained black man by two white men. As the belatedly guilt-stricken detective tries to identify that victim, another young woman is brutally killed. Then, Sykes's co-star is shot to death, perhaps having been mistaken for Robicheaux, who gradually connects the recent murders to Louisiana mob-kingpin Baby Feet Balboni, a key backer of the movie. With the help of FBI agent Rosie Gomez and the intermittent, often elliptical advice of the ghostly Gen. Hood, Robicheaux nails the psycho--but not before the man has kidnapped the detective's young daughter Alafair. Burke's evocative prose is well suited to the misty bayou scenes in which past and present mingle, but the links between the two eras are weak, and some of the contemporary characters lack definition. 75,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB selections; author tour. (Apr.)
Bill Ott
Cajun cop Dave Robicheaux of New Iberia, Louisiana, is fighting a losing battle. Keeping the modern world at bay is less possible than ever: oil companies pollute the oyster beds, bad guys run free, and Cajun "joie de vivre" is reduced to sappy T-shirt slogans. For several books now, Robicheaux has been reacting to this gradual erosion of all he cares about by striking out violently at the perpetrators, putting his family in danger in the process, and then retreating to the ever-more-fragile sanctuary of his bayou bait shop. It happens again in Burke's sixth Robicheaux adventure, as the body of a man murdered 35 years ago turns up in the bayou, a serial killer is on the loose, and a movie company comes to town backed by a wiseguy thug. This time, though, Dave's not fighting his losing battle alone; no, a straggling band of Confederate soldiers, wandering through time and intimately familiar with lost causes, has come to help. You can't write about Louisiana without at least nodding toward its Gothic heritage, that supernatural realm hovering out there in the morning mist; somehow, it seems only natural that Robicheaux, his eyes always on the past, should be the one to walk through the curtain. Burke's daring mix of genres may offend his more single-mindedly hard-boiled fans, but others will see its perfect fit, as metaphor and as reflection of character. Robicheaux's electric mist is Jay Gatsby's green light across the bay. Men out of time, they're both rowing their boats against the current, and we applaud their obstinacy as we admit their foolishness. Lost causes are like that.
Kirkus Reviews
New Iberia Lt. Dave Robicheaux (A Stained White Radiance, 1992, etc.) is trying to link the murder of a local hooker to New Orleans mobster Julie (Baby Feet) Balboni—back in his home parish as co- producer of Hollywood director Michael Goldman's Civil War film—when sozzled/psychic movie-star Elrod Sykes, pulled over for drunk driving, starts babbling about a corpse he found in the Atchafalaya Swamp—the corpse of a black man Dave had seen murdered 35 years before. Convinced that Baby Feet is the key to both the old murder and the horrific new serial killings of prostitutes, Dave goes outside the law to nail him over the protests of locals getting fat off Hollywood-and- mob money—provoking stunning new outbursts of violence, getting suspended after a shootout leaves still another prostitute dead, and finding himself holding hushed conversations with the specter of a Confederate general whom Sykes had already met deep in the bayou. Dave's visions of the Confederate dead bring a Faulknerian resonance to the miasmal guilt and self-doubt that enrich all his encounters with evil. After outstanding success in the genre, Burke has produced a violent, somber, deeply satisfying crossover novel. (First printing of 75,000)

Product Details

Pocket Books
Publication date:
Dave Robicheaux Series , #6
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The sky had gone black at sunset, and the storm had churned inland from the Gulf and drenched New Iberia and littered East Main with leaves and tree branches from the long canopy of oaks that covered the street from the old brick post office to the drawbridge over Bayou Teche at the edge of town. The air was cool now, laced with light rain, heavy with the fecund smell of wet humus, night-blooming jasmine, roses, and new bamboo. I was about to stop my truck at Del's and pick up three crawfish dinners to go when a lavender Cadillac fishtailed out of a side street, caromed off a curb, bounced a hubcap up on a sidewalk, and left long serpentine lines of tire prints through the glazed pools of yellow light from the street lamps.

I was off duty, fired, used up after a day of searching for a nineteen-year-old girl in the woods, then finding her where she had been left in the bottom of a coulee, her month and wrists wrapped with electrician's tape. Already I had tried to stop thinking about the rest of it. The medical examiner was a kind man. He bagged the body before any news people or family members got there.

I don't like to bust drunk drivers. I don't like to listen to their explanations, watch their pitiful attempts to affect sobriety, or see the sheen of fear break out in their eyes when they realize they're headed for the drunk tank with little to look forward to in the morning except the appearance of their names in the newspaper. Or maybe in truth I just don't like to see myself when I look into their faces.

But I didn't believe this particular driver could make it another block without ripping the side off a parked car orplowing the Cadillac deep into someone's shrubbery. I plugged my portable bubble into the cigarette lighter, clamped the magnets on the truck's roof, and pulled him to the curb in front of the Shadows, a huge brick, whitecolumned antebellum home built on Bayou Teche in 1831.

I had my Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department badge opened in my palm when I walked up to his window.

"Can I see your driver's license, please?"

He had rugged good looks, a Roman profile, square shoulders, and broad hands. When he smiled I saw that his teeth were capped. 'Me woman next to him wore her hair in blond ringlets and her body was as lithe, tanned, and supplelooking as an Olympic swimmer's. Her mouth looked as red and vulnerable as a rose. She also looked like she was seasick.

',You want driver's what?" he said, trying to focus evenly on my face. Inside the car I could smell a drowsy, warm odor, like the smell of smoke risking from a smoldering pile of wet leaves.

"Your driver's license," I repeated. "Please take it out of your billfold and hand it to me."

"Oh, yeah, sure, wow," he said. "I was really careless back there. I'm sorry about that. I really am."

He got his license out of his wallet, dropped it in his lap, found it again, then handed it to me, trying to keep his eyes from drifting off my face. His breath smelled like fermented fruit that had been corked up for a long time in a stone jug.

I looked at the license under the street lamp.

"You're Elrod T. Sykes?" I asked.

"Yes, sir, that's who I am."

"Would you step out of the car, Mr. Sykes?"

"Yes, sir, anything you say."

He was perhaps forty, but in good shape. He wore a light-blue golf shirt, loafers, and gray slacks that hung loosely on his flat stomach and narrow hips. He swayed slightly and propped one hand on the door to steady himself.

"We have a problem here, Mr. Sykes. I think you've been smoking marijuana in your automobile."

"Marijuana ... Boy, that'd be bad, wouldn't it?"

"I think your lady friend just ate the roach, too."

"That wouldn't be good, no, sir, not at all." He shook hi: head profoundly.

"Well, we're going to let the reefer business slide to now. But I'm afraid you're under arrest for driving while intoxicated."

"That's very bad news. This definitely was not on my agenda this evening," He widened his eyes and opened and closed his mouth as though he were trying to clear an obstruction in his ear canals. "Say, do you recognize me? What I mean is, there're news people who'd really like to put my ham hocks in the frying pan. Believe me, sir, I don't need this. I cain't say that enough."

"I'm going to drive you just down the street to the city jail, Mr. Sykes. Then I'll send a car to take Ms. Drummond to wherever she's staying. But your Cadillac will be towed to the pound."

He let out his breath ni a long sigh. I turned my face away.

"You go to the movies, huh?" he said.

"Yeah, I always enjoyed your films. Ms. Drummond's, too. Take your car keys out of the ignition, please."

"Yeah, sure," he said, despondently.

He leaned into the window and pulled the keys out of the ignition.

"El, do something," the woman said,

He straightened his back and looked at me.

"I feel real bad about this," he said. "Can I make a contribution to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or something like that?"

In the lights from the city park, I could see the rain denting the surface of Bayou Teche.

"Mr. Sykes, you're under arrest. You can remain silent if you wish, or if you wish to speak, anything you say can be used against you," I said. "As a long-time fan...

Meet the Author

James Lee Burke, a rare winner of two Edgar Awards, and named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, is the author of twenty-nine previous novels and two collections of short stories, including such New York Times bestsellers as The Glass Rainbow, Swan Peak, The Tin Roof Blowdown, Last Car to Elysian Fields and Rain Gods. He lives in Missoula, Montana.

Brief Biography

New Iberia, Louisiana and Missoula, Montana
Date of Birth:
December 5, 1936
Place of Birth:
Houston, Texas
B.A., University of Missouri, 1959; M.A., University of Missouri, 1960

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In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead (Dave Robicheaux Series #6) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked the side element he included in the story, it added to the enjoyment of the book. But this one was a little different from his other books because of that interesting element.
SlapShot62 More than 1 year ago
Been gradually reading the entire series in order and this one does not disappoint...AGAIN. Burke is just a great writer and Robicheaux is someone we ALL will pull for continuously. Imperfect yet always fighting for what is just, this character has real depth. In fact, all of Burke's characters are real and this lends itself to a much higher level of believability throughout his tales. Can't wait to keep reading!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started reading the Dave Robicheaux series from the beginning at the suggestion of a friend and I'm now up to this one.....I love Rocicheaux's character and with each book, he becomes more profound - he's a cop that may tend to go over the line, but in his heart, you know he's about doing the right thing. And its just not his character...Burke's writing style is just absolute prose, be it the description of the scenery around the characters and he always speaks of whats in Robicheaux's heart. This was, as usual, an outstanding drama. Burke drives home the gritty feeling you get when you read about the 'dark side' of human nature and what happens in that world. I'm ready to move on into reading the rest of the series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this the first time from a ratty worn paperback but this book really stuck with me. Very good crime plus a touch of the spooky. Loved it and am reading it again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you read no other book by James Lee Burke, make sure you read this one. I love the Dave Robicheaux novels, every one of them is a treat, but this was by far his greatest work! Beautiful and poetic.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Characters were believable , story lines intertwined, and the fun begins!
Garrick_Mason More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I thought Dave Robicheaux was a compelling character - not always likeable but had a moral center. I didn't love everything about it, and I didn't find the ending that compelling. Plus, the moralism of Burke grates on me. Still, really compelling story and really pretty writing. I'll read more Burke after this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whats it doing on the under 2.99 list. Its listed for 9.99 Read this back when... its very special.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Marine Corp doesn't have tech sergeants.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little too southern for me and too much grits e g grafics if you like this kind of book you will like this book i dont
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
@ 'star mist' <br> <p> 1. BoulderClan's StarClan <br> 2. SilverClan's StarClan <br> 3. Star Pool <br> 4. Map (here) <br> 5. MarsClan's StarClan <br> 6. BlazeClan's StarClan <br> 7. Not included. If you want to make this something, please ask me first.