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The Tin Roof Blowdown (Dave Robicheaux Series #16)

The Tin Roof Blowdown (Dave Robicheaux Series #16)

4.2 52
by James Lee Burke

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In the waning days of summer, 2005, a storm with greater impact than the bomb that struck Hiroshima peels the face off southern Louisiana.

This is the gruesome reality Iberia Parish Sheriff's Detective Dave Robicheaux discovers as he is deployed to New Orleans. As James Lee Burke's new novel, The Tin Roof Blowdown, begins, Hurricane Katrina has


In the waning days of summer, 2005, a storm with greater impact than the bomb that struck Hiroshima peels the face off southern Louisiana.

This is the gruesome reality Iberia Parish Sheriff's Detective Dave Robicheaux discovers as he is deployed to New Orleans. As James Lee Burke's new novel, The Tin Roof Blowdown, begins, Hurricane Katrina has left the commercial district and residential neighborhoods awash with looters and predators of every stripe. The power grid of the city has been destroyed, New Orleans reduced to the level of a medieval society. There is no law, no order, no sanctuary for the infirm, the helpless, and the innocent. Bodies float in the streets and lie impaled on the branches of flooded trees. In the midst of an apocalyptical nightmare, Robicheaux must find two serial rapists, a morphine-addicted priest, and a vigilante who may be more dangerous than the criminals looting the city.

In a singular style that defies genre, James Lee Burke has created a hauntingly bleak picture of life in New Orleans after Katrina. Filled with complex characters and depictions of people at both their best and worst, The Tin Roof Blowdown is not only an action-packed crime thriller, but a poignant story of courage and sacrifice that critics are already calling Burke's best work.

Editorial Reviews

In post-Katrina New Orleans, Detective Dave Robicheaux is up to his knees in troubles of all kinds. Once again, James Lee Burke enmeshes his protagonist in a setting so palpably real that we almost feel like assistants in his searches.
Patrick Anderson
The Tin Roof Blowdown may be Burke's most ambitious novel because he places this crime story against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, with emphasis not just on the forces of nature but also on the even more shocking damage caused by human greed and violence, by racial hate and by political cynicism and bureaucratic indifference…The crime story is as solid and well-written as we have come to expect from the prolific Burke, but it's ground we've covered before. What's dramatically new in the novel is the portrait of the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, both in New Orleans and in nearby New Iberia, where Robicheaux lives and works as a detective (and where Burke lives, too). Burke, one of the most lyrical of crime writers, invests the onrushing hurricane with a terrible beauty: "To the south, a long black hump begins to gather itself on the earth's rim, swelling out of the water like an enormous whale, extending itself all across the horizon. You cannot believe what you are watching." A little later, he reports that "the entire city, within one night, has been reduced to the technological level of the Middle Ages." Some of his descriptions of the sights and smells of the flooded city are almost unreadable.
—The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
If I'd been asked to bet on who'd write the definitive crime novel about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans, my money would have been on James Lee Burke. And that's just what he delivers in The Tin Roof Blowdown, a hard-boiled cops-and-robbers yarn that puts a human face on anonymous acts of good and evil in the chaos and horror of this natural disaster and its manmade aftermath.
—The New York Times Book Review
Janet Maslin
Although The Tin Roof Blowdown describes the storm and its horrors, Mr. Burke does not dwell on their shock value. He leaves that to others and moves on to tell his own kind of story. Like the novelists who have most effectively captured the impact on New York of the World Trade Center collapse, he concentrates more intensely on his characters’ inner lives than on the havoc around them. In Mr. Burke's universe of knights and grifters the post-Hurricane Katrina days are full of opportunity. The chaos tears off the veneers of civilized character to show what these people are really made of.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

The pain, dismay and anger brought on by the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina explodes from the pages of this new Dave Robicheaux novel. For nearly a quarter of a century, Burke has used this series, despite their dark subject matter, to show his obvious love of the land, the people and the cultures of the South and specifically New Orleans. There is a mystery for Robicheaux to solve, but it's the destruction of Burke's beloved New Orleans that resonates like thunder throughout the book. Will Patton, who has come to embody the heart and soul of Burke's weary, Southern knight, matches the author's prose in all its intensity and pain. Adept as he is at portraying the eccentric, the evil and the endearing characters found in Burke's books, it is the actor's reading of Burke's descriptive passages, whether it be a storm forming off the Louisiana coast or the shock of blood escaping from a gunshot wound, that creates a fully realized world for the listener. Patton's insightful interpretation of Burke's darkly expressive imagery makes for a rich literary experience rarely achieved in crime fiction today. Simultaneous release with the S&S hardcover (Reviews, May 21). (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In his many years of service with the New Orleans police department and the New Iberia sheriff's department, Dave Robicheaux has faced evil and danger in its many forms. But his life is about to change as New Orleans-"the city that care forgot"-is about to fall victim to a catastrophe that will dwarf all the ills that have previously beset it. As Hurricane Katrina sweeps into the city, residents who were not able to flee can't begin to know that even worse destruction will occur when the levees fail. With the city in chaos, law enforcement officers from New Iberia are called in to help restore a semblance of order. As Dave gets pulled into the turmoil, his wife and daughter are about to face their darkest hour. This is one of Burke's best and will keep listeners enthralled. Will Patton's performance makes the author's prose sing. This book is essential for all libraries, as Burke has captured in eloquent fiction an event that allowed us to see "an American city turned into Baghdad." Highly recommended.
—Theresa Connors

Kirkus Reviews
A looting and shooting at the height of Hurricane Katrina's destruction sucks Dave Robicheaux (Pegasus Descending, 2006, etc.) into New Orleans's purgatorial ordeal. After hijacking a boat from a junkie priest who was fighting to rescue a crowd trapped in a church attic by Katrina's rising waters, bail jumper Andre Rochon, together with his teenaged cousin Kevin and armed-robbery specialists Eddy and Bertrand Melancon, runs into both good fortune and bad. Breaking into florist/gangster Sidney Kovick's house, the looters find thousands in cash and a trove of blood diamonds. But when they try boosting some gas from insurance agent Otis Baylor, whose traumatized daughter Thelma recognizes them as the men who raped her after her senior prom, a single gunshot leaves one of them dead and another a helpless paraplegic, left to the mercy of the city's monumentally overburdened hospital system. Seconded from Iberia Parish to help the NOPD cope with the epidemic lawlessness, Robicheaux finds himself tangling with his eye-for-an-eye buddy Clete Purcel, Kovick's gangland establishment, scary private eye Ronald Bledsoe and the usual quota of femmes fatales and lowlifes. Apart from the operatically scaled evocation of the hurricane, a shattering portrait Burke was born to create, the most striking creation here is Bertrand Melancon, a lost soul who can't decide whether he's an avenger or a penitent.

Product Details

Pocket Books
Publication date:
Dave Robicheaux Series , #16
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.92(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt


My worst dreams have always contained images of brown water and fields of elephant grass and the downdraft of helicopter blades. The dreams are in color but they contain no sound, not of drowned voices in the river or the explosions under the hooches in the village we burned or the thropping of the Jolly Green and the gunships coming low and flat across the canopy, like insects pasted against a molten sun.

In the dream I lie on a poncho liner, dehydrated with blood expander, my upper thigh and side torn by wounds that could have been put there by wolves. I am convinced I will die unless I receive plasma back at battalion aid. Next to me lies a Negro corporal, wearing only his trousers and boots, his skin coal-black, his torso split open like a gaping red zipper from his armpit down to his groin, the damage to his body so grievous, traumatic, and terrible to see or touch he doesn't understand what has happened to him.

"I got the spins, Loot. How I look?" he says.

"We've got the million-dollar ticket, Doo-doo. We're Freedom Bird bound," I reply.

His face is crisscrossed with sweat, his mouth as glossy and bright as freshly applied lipstick when he tries to smile.

The Jolly Green loads up and lifts off, with Doo-doo and twelve other wounded on board. I stare upward at its strange rectangular shape, its blades whirling against a lavender sky, and secretly I resent the fact that I and others are left behind to wait on the slick and the chance that serious numbers of NVA are coming through the grass. Then I witness the most bizarre and cruel and seemingly unfair event of my entire life.

As the Jolly Green climbs above the river and turns toward the China Sea, a solitary RPG streaks at a forty-five-degree angle from the canopy below and explodes inside the bay. The ship shudders once and cracks in half, its fuel tanks blooming into an enormous orange fireball. The wounded on board are coated with flame as they plummet downward toward the water.

Their lives are taken incrementally - by flying shrapnel and bullets, by liquid flame on their skin, and by drowning in a river. In effect, they are forced to die three times. A medieval torturer could not have devised a more diabolic fate.

When I wake from the dream, I have to sit for a long time on the side of the bed, my arms clenched across my chest, as though I've caught a chill or the malarial mosquito is once again having its way with my metabolism. I assure myself that the dream is only a dream, that if it were real I would have heard sounds and not simply seen images that are the stuff of history now and are not considered of interest by those who are determined to re-create them.

I also tell myself that the past is a decaying memory and that I do not have to relive and empower it unless I choose to do so. As a recovering drunk, I know I cannot allow myself the luxury of resenting my government for lying to a whole generation of young men and women who believed they were serving a noble cause. Nor can I resent those who treated us as oddities if not pariahs when we returned home.

When I go back to sleep, I once again tell myself I will never again have to witness the wide-scale suffering of innocent civilians, nor the betrayal and abandonment of our countrymen when they need us most.

But that was before Katrina. That was before a storm with greater impact than the bomb blast that struck Hiroshima peeled the face off southern Louisiana. That was before one of the most beautiful cities in the Western Hemisphere was killed three times, and not just by the forces of nature.

Copyright © 2007 by James Lee Burke

Meet the Author

James Lee Burke is a New York Times bestselling author, two-time winner of the Edgar Award, and the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts in Fiction. A legend of the mystery genre, he's authored thirty-two novels and two short story collections including Robicheaux, Light of the World, Creole Belle, Swan Peak, The Tin Roof Blowdown, and Feast Day of Fools. He lives in Misoula, 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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Tin Roof Blowdown (Dave Robicheaux Series #16) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Blackhorse More than 1 year ago
As usual, Burke's characters are in perfect form; more so because the story unfolds in their home setting of New Orleans. The plot is complicated and leads the reader to an unexpected ending. If you are new to Burke, you will find it a little more graphic depiction of murder, crime and the lives of two very unusual lead characters. The treat in this story is the realistic depiction of the condition of New Orleans and the absolute poverty and misery of the City's inhabitants following the destructive results of Katrina. Great Read!
AtoZNY More than 1 year ago
Every time I read the latest Burke opus, I say "it's the best he's done" but with each new one, like vintage wine, Burke just gets better! Based on TV accounts and other writings I've seen, Burke's account of Katerina and its aftermath is as good as any and better than most! I fully recommend this one.
HeidiDew More than 1 year ago
James Lee Burke fans will love following Dave Robicheaux through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Who better than Burke to walk us through the idiosyncrasies of New Orleans and that city's dealings with the insurance industry?
arkie23 More than 1 year ago
Good characters and was a good fictional account of Katrina events.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book provides a realistice feel of New Orleans and Louisiana following Katrina. It is great reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think the book was thrilling.It was really kepping a grasp on me.Although it took me a while to get in to it... it turned out very interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a burly, well-written book, and a welcome addition to the Robicheaux series. It persuasively and compassionately depicts the terrifying situation in NOLA following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Difficult issues such as racism are handled with sensitivity. Characters are distinctive and colorfully portrayed with minimal verbiage. Rewarding reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read all of James Lee Burke's novels including his earlier novels which didn't attract much attention. The constant in everything of his I've read is his commitment to his craft and his reader. Unlike many of the currently sucessful 'series authors', Burke doesn't take shortcuts with characters, settings and especially not with dialogue. Each one of his books, whether a Dave Robechaux story, a Billy Bob Holland story, or a free standing story will stand on it's own without it being necessary to have read earlier installments. James Lee Burke never shortchanges his readers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again, Mr. Burke has set his mystery in the steamy bayous of southern Louisiana. This time the chaos and despair following Hurricane Katrina are the backdrop for theft and murder. The characters are intensely portrayed, and the author manages to evoke sympathy for even the lowest of the low who show the possibility of redemption. And thank heavens the women in Detective Robicheaux's life are strong and assertive, and not a one of them needs to count on a man to rescue her! I kind of suspected what the 'lights' beneath the floodwaters might mean, and had confirmation in the powerful and mystical final passages of the book. A incredibly moving novel of the good, the evil, and the soul-damaged, by an author at the peak of his game.
Anonymous 15 days ago
She walks outside and down the street silently in search of something to do until her teacher came
Anonymous 15 days ago
I thought about Daya, and a small amile tugged at my lips.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
robertpe More than 1 year ago
Good story but all the local lingo throws off the story for me. I had to re read some parts to try and understand some of the dialog.
Nik43 More than 1 year ago
This was the first Burke book I've read. A family member recommended I include it in my reading leading up to my first ever visit to New Orleans that's on the drawing board. Great story that I enjoyed on several levels. Not only do I now have a feeling for post-Katrina New Orleans, but I appreciated the numerous subtle lessons about life that Mr. Burke wraps in a rough & tumble story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved this book lovely descriptions of the Louisiana culture ans countryside story was very captivating
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first James Lee Burke noverl. Now I've read all of them. What a wordsmith! What a storyteller! Give us more!
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