From New York Times bestselling author James Lee Burke, Detective Dave Robicheaux becomes entangled in a mystery that connects a series of grisly murders with an ex-convict turned bestselling author, a notorious local pimp, and the man currently dating Robicheaux’s daughter.
On the trail of a killer responsible for the deaths of seven young women in neighboring Jefferson Davis parish, Detective Dave Robicheaux and his best friend Clete Purcel can’t seem to stay away from Herman Stanga, a notorious pimp whose name constantly resurfaces in their investigation, and whom both men despise. When Stanga turns up dead shortly after a fierce beating in front of numerous witnesses at the hands of Clete Purcel, the case takes a nasty turn, and solving the mystery of the Jefferson Davis deaths becomes more important than ever.
Adding to Robicheaux’s troubles is the matter of his adopted daughter, Alafair, on hiatus from Stanford Law for a semester and home in New Iberia to put the finishing touches on her novel. Her literary pursuit has led her into the arms of Kermit Abelard, celebrated novelist and scion of a once-prominent Louisiana family whose fortunes are slowly sinking into the bayous. In Robicheaux’s mind, Abelard’s association with a sleazy ex-convict turned bestselling author named Robert Weingart puts him at the center of some very shady business, and Robicheaux fears he’s taking Alafair down with him. But at the same time he fears for Alafair’s well-being—and possibly her life—she’s becoming more distant toward him, convinced his concerns are just the paranoia of an overprotective father. To protect his daughter and clear his best friend’s name, Robicheaux will need every ounce of guts, wit, and investigative chops he can muster.
From the creator of “one of America’s best mystery series” (Library Journal, starred review), James Lee Burke’s The Glass Rainbow is a “superlative” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) bayou thriller.
About 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. He’s authored thirty-six novels and two short story collections. He lives in Missoula, Montana.
Hometown:New Iberia, Louisiana and Missoula, Montana
Date of Birth:December 5, 1936
Place of Birth:Houston, Texas
Education:B.A., University of Missouri, 1959; M.A., University of Missouri, 1960
Read an Excerpt
The Glass Rainbow
FOR THE REST of the world, the season was still fall, marked by cool nights and the gold-green remnants of summer. For me, down in South Louisiana, in the Garden District of New Orleans, the wetlands that lay far beyond my hospital window had turned to winter, one characterized by stricken woods that were drained of water and strung with a web of gray leaves and dead air vines that had wrapped themselves as tightly as cord around the trees.
Those who have had the following experience will not find my descriptions exaggerated or even metaphorical in nature. A morphine dream has neither walls nor a ceiling nor a floor. The sleep it provides is like a warm bath, free of concerns about mortality and pain and memories from the past. Morpheus also allows us vision through a third eye that we never knew existed. His acolytes can see through time and become participants in grand events they had believed accessible only through history books and films. On one occasion, I saw a hot-air balloon rising from its tether in Audubon Park, a uniformed soldier operating a telegrapher’s key inside the wicker basket, while down below other members of the Confederate Signal Corps shared sandwiches and drank coffee from tin cups, all of them as stately and stiff as figures in a sepia-tinted photograph.
I don’t wish to be too romantic about my experience in the recovery facility there on St. Charles Avenue in uptown New Orleans. While I gazed through my window at the wonderful green streetcar wobbling down the tracks on the neutral ground, the river fog puffing out of the live oak trees, the pink and purple neon on the Katz & Besthoff drugstore as effervescent as tentacles of smoke twirling from marker grenades, I knew with a sinking heart that what I was seeing was an illusion, that in reality the Katz & Besthoff drugstore and the umbrella-covered sno’ball carts along St. Charles and the musical gaiety of the city had slipped into history long ago, and somewhere out on the edge of my vision, the onset of permanent winter waited for me.
Though I’m a believer, that did not lessen the sense of trepidation I experienced in these moments. I felt as if the sun were burning a hole in the sky, causing it to blacken and collapse like a giant sheet of carbon paper suddenly crinkling and folding in on itself, and I had no power to reverse the process. I felt that a great darkness was spreading across the land, not unlike ink spilling across the face of a topographic map.
Many years ago, when I was recovering from wounds I received in a Southeast Asian country, a United States Army psychiatrist told me that my morphine-induced dreams were creating what he called a “world destruction fantasy,” one that had its origins in childhood and the dissolution of one’s natal family. He was a scientist and a learned man, and I did not argue with him. Even at night, when I lay in a berth on a hospital ship, far from free-fire zones and the sound of ammunition belts popping under a burning hooch, I did not argue. Nor did I contend with the knowledge of the psychiatrist when dead members of my platoon spoke to me in the rain and a mermaid with an Asian face beckoned to me from a coral cave strung with pink fans, her hips spangled with yellow coins, her mouth parting, her naked breasts as flushed with color as the inside of a conch shell.
The cult of Morpheus is a strange community indeed, and it requires that one take up residence in a country where the improbable becomes commonplace. No matter what I did, nor how many times I disappeared out my window into the mists along St. Charles Avenue, back into an era of rooftop jazz bands and historical streetcars filled with men in bowler hats and women who carried parasols, the watery gray rim of a blighted planet was always out there—intransigent and corrupt, a place where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal.
IN THE EARLY A.M. on a Friday, I asked the black attendant to open the windows in my room. It was against the rules, but the attendant was an elderly and kind man who had spent five days on a rooftop after the collapse of the levees during Hurricane Katrina, and he wasn’t given to concerns about authority. The windows reached to the ceiling and were hung with ventilated green shutters that were closed during the heat of the day to filter the sun’s glare. The attendant opened both the glass and the shutters and let in the night smell of the roses and camellias and magnolia and rain mist blowing through the trees. The air smelled like Bayou Teche when it’s spring and the fish are spawning among the water hyacinths and the frogs are throbbing in the cattails and the flooded cypress. It smelled like the earth may have smelled during the first days of creation, before any five-toed footprints appeared along the banks of a river.
Or at least I think the black man opened the windows. Even to this day I cannot be sure of what I said and saw and heard that night. Like the drunkard who fears both his memory and his dreams, I had become cynical about my perceptions, less out of fear that they were illusions than a conviction that they were real.
After the black man had left the room, I turned my head on the pillow and looked into the face of a Cajun girl by the name of Tee Jolie Melton.
“Hi, Mr. Dave,” she said. “I read all about the shooting in the papers. You was on television, too. I didn’t know you was here in New Orleans. I’m sorry to see you hurt like this. You was talking French in your sleep.”
“It’s nice to see you, Tee Jolie. How’d you get in?” I said.
“T’rew the front door. You want me to come back another time?”
“Can you get me a glass of water?”
“I got you better than that. I brought you a Dr Pepper and a lime I cut up, ‘cause that’s what you always drank when you came into the club. I brought you somet’ing else, too. It’s an iPod I filled wit’ music. I loaded ‘Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar’ on it, ‘cause I knew how you always liked that song.”
Her eyes were blue-green, her hair long and mahogany-colored with twists of gold in it that were as bright as buttercups. She was part Indian and part Cajun and part black and belonged to that ethnic group we call Creoles, although the term is a misnomer.
“You’re the best,” I said.
“Remember when you he’ped me with my car crash? You was so kind. You took care of everyt’ing, and I didn’t have no trouble at all because of it.”
It wasn’t a car crash. As I recalled, it was at least three car crashes, but I didn’t pursue the point. The most interesting aspect of Tee Jolie’s auto accidents were her written explanations at the scene. To the best of my memory, these were her words:
“I was backing up when this light pole came out of nowhere and smashed into my bumper.
“I was turning left, but somebody was blocking the lane, so, trying to be polite, I switched my turn indicator and cut through the school parking lot, but I didn’t have no way of knowing the chain was up on the drive at that time of day, because it never is.
“When the transmission went into reverse, Mr. Fontenot was putting my groceries in the backseat, and the door handle caught his coat sleeve and drug him across the street into the gas pump that blew up. I tried to give him first aid on the mouth, but he had already swallowed this big wad of gum that the fireman had to pull out with his fingers. I think Mr. Fontenot almost bit off one of the fireman’s fingers and didn’t have the courtesy to say he was sorry.”
Tee Jolie fixed a glass of ice and Dr Pepper with a lime slice and stuck a straw in it and held it up to my mouth. She was wearing a long-sleeve shirt printed with purple and green flowers. Her skirt was pale blue and fluffy and pleated, and her shoes looked tiny on her feet. You could say that Tee Jolie was made for the camera, her natural loveliness of a kind that begged to be worshipped on a stage or hung on a wall. Her face was thin, her eyes elongated, and her hair full of waves, as though it had been recently unbraided, although that was the way it always looked.
“I feel selfish coming here, ‘cause it wasn’t just to give you a Dr Pepper and the iPod,” she said. “I came here to ax you somet’ing, but I ain’t gonna do it now.”
“You can say anything you want, Tee Jolie, because I’m not even sure you’re here. I dream in both the day and the night about people who have been dead many years. In my dreams, they’re alive, right outside the window, Confederate soldiers and the like.”
“They had to come a long way, huh?”
“That’s safe to say,” I replied. “My wife and daughter were here earlier, and I know they were real. I’m not sure about you. No offense meant. That’s just the way it is these days.”
“I know something I ain’t suppose to know, and it makes me scared, Mr. Dave,” she said.
She was sitting in the chair, her ankles close together, her hands folded on her knees. I had always thought of her as a tall girl, particularly when she was onstage at the zydeco club where she sang, an arterial-red electric guitar hanging from her neck. Now she looked smaller than she had a few moments ago. She lifted her face up into mine. There was a mole by the corner of her mouth. I didn’t know what she wanted me to say.
“Did you get involved with some bad guys?” I said.
“I wouldn’t call them that. How come you to ax me that?”
“Because you’re a good person, and sometimes you trust people you shouldn’t. Good women tend to do that. That’s why a lot of us men don’t deserve them.”
“Your father was killed in a oil-well blowout, wasn’t he? Out on the Gulf when you was in Vietnam. That’s right, ain’t it?”
“Yes, he was a derrick man.”
As with many Creoles and Cajuns, there was a peculiarity at work in Tee Jolie’s speech. She was ungrammatical and her vocabulary was limited, but because of the cadence in her language and her regional accent, she was always pleasant to listen to, a voice from a gentler and more reserved time, even when what she spoke of was not pleasant to think about, in this case the death of my father, Big Aldous.
“I’m wit’ a man. He’s separated but not divorced. A lot of people know his name. Famous people come to the place where we live. I heard them talking about centralizers. You know what they are?”
“They’re used inside the casing on drilling wells.”
“A bunch of men was killed ‘cause maybe not enough of those centralizers was there or somet’ing.”
“I’ve read about that, Tee Jolie. It’s public knowledge. You shouldn’t worry because you know about this.”
“The man I’m wit’ does bidness sometimes with dangerous people.”
“Maybe you should get away from him.”
“We’re gonna be married. I’m gonna have his baby.”
I fixed my gaze on the glass of Dr Pepper and ice that sat on the nightstand.
“You want some more?” she asked.
“Yes, but I can hold it by myself.”
“Except I see the pain in your face when you move,” she said. She lifted the glass and straw to my mouth. “They hurt you real bad, huh, Mr. Dave?”
“They shot me up proper,” I replied.
“They shot your friend Mr. Clete, too?”
“They smacked both of us around. But we left every one of them on the ground. They’re going to be dead for a long time.”
“I’m glad,” she said.
Outside the window, I could hear the rain and wind sweeping through the trees, scattering leaves from the oaks and needles from the slash pines across the roof.
“I always had my music and the piece of land my father left me and my sister and my mama,” she said. “I sang wit’ BonSoir, Catin. I was queen of the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge. I t’ink back on that, and it’s like it was ten years ago instead of two. A lot can change in a short time, cain’t it? My mama died. Now it’s just me and my li’l sister, Blue, and my granddaddy back in St. Martinville.”
“You’re a great musician, and you have a wonderful voice. You’re a beautiful person, Tee Jolie.”
“When you talk like that, it don’t make me feel good, no. It makes me sad.”
“He says I can have an abortion if I want.”
“That’s his offer to you?”
“He ain’t got his divorce yet. He ain’t a bad man. You know him.”
“Don’t tell me his name,” I said.
Because I might want to put a bullet between his eyes, I thought. “It’s not my business,” I said. “Did you really give me this iPod?”
“You just saw me.”
“I can’t trust what I see and hear these days. I truly want to believe you’re real. The iPod is too expensive a gift.”
“Not for me. He gives me plenty of money.”
“My wallet is in the nightstand drawer.”
“I got to go, Mr. Dave.”
“Take the money.”
“No. I hope you like the songs. I put t’ree of mine in there. I put one in there by Taj Mahal ‘cause I know you like him, too.”
“Are you really here?” I asked.
She cupped her hand on my brow. “You’re burning up, you,” she said.
Then she was gone.
NINE DAYS LATER, a big man wearing a seersucker suit and a bow tie and spit-shined shoes and a fresh haircut and carrying a canvas bag on a shoulder strap came into the room and pulled up a chair by the bed and stuck an unlit cigarette in his mouth.
“You’re not going to smoke that in here, are you?” I asked.
He didn’t bother to answer. His blond hair was cut like a little boy’s. His eyes were bright green, more energetic than they should have been, one step below wired. He set his bag on the floor and began pulling magazines and two city library books and a box of pralines and a carton of orange juice and a Times-Picayune from it. When he bent over, his coat swung open, exposing a nylon shoulder holster and the blue-black .38 with white handles that it carried. He removed a pint bottle of vodka from the bag and unscrewed the cap and poured at least three inches into the carton of orange juice.
“Early in the day,” I said.
He tossed his unlit cigarette end over end into the wastebasket and drank out of the carton, staring out the window at the robins fluttering in the oak trees and the Spanish moss stirring in the breeze. “Tell me if you want me to leave, big mon.”
“You know better than that,” I said.
“I saw Alafair and Molly getting in their car. When are you going home?”
“Maybe in a week. I feel a lot stronger. Where have you been?”
“Running down a couple of bail skips. I still have to pay the bills. I’m not sleeping too good. I think the doc left some lead in me. I think it’s moving around.”
His eyes were bright with a manic energy that I didn’t think was related to the alcohol. He kept swallowing and clearing his throat, as though a piece of rust were caught in it. “The speckled trout are running. We need to get out on the salt. The White House is saying the oil has gone away.”
He waited for me to speak. But I didn’t.
“You don’t believe it?” he said.
“The oil company says the same thing. Do you believe them?”
He fiddled with his fingers and looked into space, and I knew he had something on his mind besides the oil-well blowout on the Gulf. “Something happen?” I said.
“I had a run-in two nights ago with Frankie Giacano. Remember him? He used to burn safes with his cousin Stevie Gee. He was knocking back shots with a couple of hookers in this joint on Decatur, and I accidentally stepped on his foot, and he says, ‘Hey, Clete, glad to see you, even though you probably just broke two of my toes. At least it saves me the trouble of coming to your office. You owe me two large, plus the vig for over twenty years. I don’t know what that might come to. Something like the national debt of Pakistan. You got a calculator on you?’”
Clete drank again from the carton, staring at the birds jittering in the trees, his throat working, his cheeks pooling with color as they always did when alcohol went directly into his bloodstream. He set the carton down on the nightstand and widened his eyes. “So I told him, ‘I’m having a quiet beer here, Frankie, and I apologize for stepping on your needle-nose stomps that nobody but greaseballs wears these days, so I’m going to sit down over there in the corner and order a po’boy sandwich and read the paper and drink my beer, and you’re not going to bother me again. Understood?’
“Then, in front of his skanks, he tells me he peeled an old safe owned by his uncle Didi Gee, and he found a marker I signed for two grand, and all these years the vig was accruing and now I owe the principal and the interest to him. So I go, ‘I think a certain kind of social disease has climbed from your nether regions into your brain, Frankie. Secondly, you don’t have permission to call me by my first name. Thirdly, your uncle Didi Gee, who was a three-hundred-pound tub of whale shit, died owing me money, not the other way around.’
“Frankie says, ‘If you’d be a little more respectful, I would have worked something out. But I knew that was what you were gonna say. For that reason, I already sold the marker to Bix Golightly. By the way, take a look at the crossword puzzle in your newspaper. I was working on it this morning and couldn’t think of a thirteen-letter word for a disease of the glands. Then you walked in and it hit me. The word is “elephantiasis.” I’m not pulling your crank. Check it out.’”
“You think he was lying about selling the marker to Golightly?” I asked.
“Bix Golightly is psychotic,” I said.
“They all are.”
“Put away the booze, Clete, at least until afternoon.”
“When you were on the hooch, did you ever stop drinking because somebody told you to?”
It was Indian summer outside, and the sunlight looked like gold smoke in the live oaks. At the base of the tree trunks, the petals of the four-o’clocks were open in the shade, and a cluster of fat-breasted robins were pecking in the grass. It was a fine morning, not one to compromise and surrender to the meretricious world in which Clete Purcel and I had spent most of our adult lives. “Let it go,” I said.
“Let what go?” he asked.
“The sewer that people like Frankie Giacano and Bix Golightly thrive in.”
“Only dead people get to think like that. The rest of us have to deal with it.”
When I didn’t answer, he picked up the iPod and clicked it on. He held one side of the headset close to his ear and listened, then smiled in recognition. “That’s Will Bradley and Freddie Slack. Where’d you get this?”
“From Tee Jolie Melton.”
“I heard she disappeared or went off someplace. She was here?”
“It was about two in the morning, and I turned on the pillow and she was sitting right there, in the same chair you’re sitting in.”
“She works here?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“After ten p.m. this place is locked up like a convent.”
“Help me into the bathroom, will you?” I said.
He set the iPod back on the nightstand and stared at it, the driving rhythms of “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar” still rising from the foam-rubber pads on the earphones. “Don’t be telling me stuff like this, Streak,” he said. “I’m not up to it. I won’t listen anymore to that kind of talk.”
He lifted the orange juice carton and drank from it, fixing one eye on me like a cyclops who was half in the bag.
CLETE MAINTAINED TWO private investigative offices, one on Main Street in New Iberia, over in the bayou country, and one in New Orleans, on St. Ann in the French Quarter. After Katrina, he bought and restored the building on St. Ann that he had formerly rented. With great pride, he lived on the second floor, above his office, with a fine view from the balcony of St. Louis Cathedral and the oak trees and dark green pike-fenced garden behind it. As a PI, he did scut work for bondsmen and liability lawyers, wives who wanted their unfaithful husbands bankrupted in divorce court, and cuckolds who wanted their wives and their lovers crucified. On the upside of the situation, Clete hired out at nearly pro bono rates to bereaved parents whose missing children had been written off as runaways, or to people whose family members may have been railroaded into prison and even placed on death row.
He was despised by many of his old colleagues at NOPD and the remnants of the Mob. He was also the bane of the insurance companies because of the massive amounts of property damage he had done from Mobile to Beaumont. He had skipped New Orleans on a murder beef after shooting and killing a federal witness, and he had fought on the side of the leftists in El Salvador. He had also been a recipient of the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts. When a private plane loaded with mobsters crashed into the side of a mountain in western Montana, the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation determined that someone had poured sand in the fuel tanks. Clete threw a suitcase in the back of his rusted-out Caddy convertible and blew Polson, Montana, like it was burning down. He dropped a corrupt Teamster official upside down from a hotel balcony into a dry swimming pool. He poured a dispenser of liquid soap down the throat of a button man in the men’s room of the New Orleans airport. He handcuffed a drunk congressman to a fireplug on St. Charles Avenue. He opened up a fire hose on a hit man in the casino at the bottom of Canal Street and blew him into a toilet stall like a human hockey puck. He destroyed a gangster’s house on Lake Pontchartrain with an earth-grader, knocking down the walls, troweling up the floors, and crushing the furniture into kindling, even uprooting the shrubbery and flowers and trees and grading them and the lawn furniture into the swimming pool.
An average day in the life of Clete Purcel was akin to an asteroid bouncing through Levittown.
Child molesters, pimps, dope dealers, and men who abused women got no slack and feared him as they would the wrath of God. But Clete’s role as the merry prankster and classical trickster of folklore had a price tag. A succubus lived in his breast and gave him no respite. He had carried it with him from the Irish Channel in New Orleans to Vietnam and to the brothels of Bangkok and Cherry Alley in Tokyo and back home to New Orleans. In Clete’s mind, he was not worthy of a good woman’s love; nor did he ever measure up in the eyes of his alcoholic father, a milkman who took out his anger and low self-esteem on his confused and suffering firstborn son.
His two visitors had parked their car on Decatur and walked up Pirates Alley, past the small bookshop that once was the apartment of William Faulkner, then had mounted the stairs of Clete’s building, where one of them banged loudly on the door with the flat of his fist.
It was evening, and Clete had just showered after an hour of lifting barbells by the stone well in his courtyard. The sky was mauve-colored and filled with birds, the banana plants in his courtyard rattling in the breeze that blew from Lake Pontchartrain. He had just dressed in new slacks and white socks and Roman sandals and a Hawaiian shirt, his skin still glowing with the warmth of the shower, his hair wet-combed, all the time whistling a tune and looking forward to sitting down at his table over a bowl of crawfish gumbo and loaf of hot buttered French bread. It was the kind of timeless evening in Louisiana when spring and fall and winter and summer come together in a perfect equinox, so exquisite and lovely that the dying of the light seems a violation of a divine ordinance. It was an evening that was wonderful in every way possible. Street musicians were playing in Jackson Square; the air smelled of beignets baking in Café du Monde; the clouds were ribbed like strips of fire above a blue band of light that still clung to the bottom of the sky. Maybe there was even a possibility of turning around in a cafe and unexpectedly seeing a beautiful woman’s smile. It was an evening that would have been good for anything except an unannounced visit by Bix Golightly and a pimple-faced part-time killer and full-time punk named Waylon Grimes.
Clete opened the door. “I’m closed for the day. You got business with me, call the office tomorrow and make an appointment,” he said.
Bix Golightly still had the sloping shoulders and flat chest and vascular forearms and scar tissue around his eyes that had defined him when he boxed at Angola, breaking noses, busting lips and teeth, and knocking his opponents’ mouthpieces over the ropes into the crowd on the green. His face was all bone, the bridge of his nose crooked, his haircut tight, his mouth a mirthless slit. Some people said Bix shot meth. Others said he didn’t have to; Bix had come out of his mother’s womb with a hard-on and had been in overdrive ever since.
Three tiny green teardrops were tattooed at the corner of his right eye. A red star was tattooed on his throat, right under the jawbone. “I’m glad to see you looking so good,” Bix said. “I heard you and your buddy Robicheaux got shot up. I also heard you capped a woman. Or was it Robicheaux who did the broad?”
“It was me. What are you doing here, Bix?”
“Frankie Gee told you about me acquiring your marker?” he said.
“Yeah, I know all about it. With respect, this business about a marker is bogus,” Clete said. “I think Frankie took you over the hurdles. I hope you didn’t get burned too bad.”
“If it’s bogus, why is your name signed on it?” Bix asked.
“Because I used to play bourré with the Figorelli brothers. I lost some money in a pot, but I covered it the following week. How that marker ended up in Didi Gee’s safe, I don’t know.”
“Maybe because you were stoned out of your head.”
“That’s a possibility. But I don’t know and I don’t remember and I don’t care.”
“Purcel, ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I don’t care’ don’t flush.”
“It’d better, because that’s as good as it’s going to get. What’s Waylon doing here?” Clete said.
“He works for me. Why do you ask?”
“He killed a four-year-old child, is why,” Clete replied.
“That was during a robbery. Waylon was the victim, not the guy doing the robbery,” Bix said.
“He backed up over a kid and made the parents testify that a car-jacker did it,” Clete said.
“That’s news to me,” Bix said, looking at his friend. “What’s this stuff about intimidating the parents, Waylon?”
“You got me,” Waylon Grimes said. He was a small-boned man with a concave chest and a wispy red pencil mustache and hair that hung like string over his ears. He wore his shirt outside his slacks, the sleeves buttoned at the wrists the way a 1950s hood might, a chain hooked to a wallet in his back pocket. He lit a cigarette, his hands cupped around his lighter. “Want me to go downstairs?”
“No, stay where you’re at,” Bix said. “Purcel, I’m not greedy. I checked out your finances. You got about fifty grand equity in this place. You can borrow on the equity and give the check to me, since I know you don’t have any cash. But no matter how you cut it, I want thirty large from you. I want it in seven working days, too. Don’t try to stiff me on this, man.”
“I want a retroactive patent on the wheel, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get one,” Clete replied.
“Can I use your bathroom?” Waylon said.
“It’s broken,” Clete said.
“You got a broad back there?” Waylon said.
Clete stepped forward, forcing the two visitors backward onto the landing, a brass marching band coming to life in his head. “You listen, you little piece of shit,” he said. “If you ever come here again, I’m going to start pulling parts off you. That’s not a metaphor. I’m going to rip your arms and legs off your body and kick them up your ass. You want to crack wise? I hope you do, because I’m going to bust your spokes right now, head to foot.”
Waylon took a deep puff off his cigarette, letting the smoke out slowly, like balls of damp cotton rising from his mouth. He dropped the cigarette on the landing and ground it out flatly under his shoe and glanced at Bix Golightly, his expression contemplative. “I’ll be down at the Vietnamese grocery,” he said.
“No, we’re gonna iron this out,” Bix said. “You don’t talk to my employees like that, Purcel. Besides, we got a lot of commonalities. Did you know we used to ball the same broad, the one with the king-size jugs?”
“This guy is a jerk and a welcher, Bix,” Waylon said. “Why waste your time talking to him? You know how it’s gonna play out.” He walked down the stairs, as indifferent to his employer as he was to Clete’s threat. He paused at the bottom, the wind blowing through the brick foyer, ruffling his clothes. He looked up the stairs at Clete. “About that kid who got himself crunched under the car? He was a Mongoloid and still wearing diapers, even though he was four years old. The only reason his parents kept him around was the state aid they got. He was also playing in the driveway, where he wasn’t supposed to be, primarily because his parents weren’t watching him. If you ask me, he’s better off now.”
Before Clete could respond, Bix Golightly stepped closer to him, blocking Clete’s view of the foyer, his body heat and the astringent smell of his deodorant rising into Clete’s face. “Can you read my ink?” he said.
“What about it?”
“Tell me what it says.”
“The teardrops mean you popped three guys for the Aryan Brotherhood. The red star on your carotid tells ambitious guys to give it their best shot. You’re a walking fuck-you to every swinging dick on the yard.”
“You think you’re a tough guy because you ate a couple of bullets on the bayou? ‘Tough’ is when you got nothing to lose, when you don’t care about nothing, when you don’t even care if you’re going to hell or not. Are you that tough, Purcel?”
“I’m not following you.”
“I’m gonna send an appraiser out to look at your property. We got a small window of opportunity here. Don’t let this thing get out of control.”
“Don’t blow your nose too hard, Bix. I think your brains are starting to melt.”
Bix took a folded piece of lined notebook paper from his shirt pocket and handed it to Clete. “Check out the addresses there and see if I got them right.”
Clete unfolded the piece of notebook paper and stared at the letters and numbers penciled on it, his scalp shrinking. “What if I shove this down your throat?” he said.
“Yeah, you can do that, provided you don’t mind Waylon knowing where your sister and your niece live. Smells like you’re cooking gumbo in there. Have a nice evening. I love this neighborhood. I always wanted to live in it. Don’t get your dork stuck in the lamp socket on this.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My family is from New Orleans, Louisiana, and in his Dave Robicheaux mysteries--espepcially the Tin Roof Blow Down and his latest, The Glass Rainbow--James Lee Burke shows that he is second to none when it comes to empathy and reverence for Bayou country. The language he uses to express what many of us take for granted as a way of life makes me homesick every time. I don't need to summarize the events of the book here because there's already a description on this site--but what I will say is, James Lee Burke has written an amazing, heartfelt, philosophical, and thrilling ode to Louisiana in The Glass Rainbow, and if you love Dave Robicheaux, or even if you've never heard of him, you will find the perfect mix of literature, suspense, emotion, intrigue, and above all, atmosphere, in this novel. I was blown away.
Beautifully written. There were passages of poetic prose that brought me to tears. The book is full of wisdoms and insights into human nature. The story is a page turner and compelling. James Lee Burke is such an intelligent man. I know he is getting up in years and I dread the day there will be no more books from James Lee Burke.
This is a book that I would highly recommend to be read when not alone! This is a suspense-filled thriller, a terrifying trip into the darkest depths of depravity. The bodies of seven women who have been raped and mutilated have been found in the town of Iberia Parish, La. Dave Robicheaux, the deputy sheriff, finds that in the end that his intuition, learned from years in the field and his proven power many times over, are really the only tools he can trust in this tale of betrayal, conspiracy and violence. A Page turner!
The Glass Rainbow is James Lee Burke's best book to date! How does he do it? Jim is truly a masterful story teller, with a keen sense of setting, and an eerie foresight into human nature. The often proclaimed 'poet of the mystery novel' has done it again.
I have read ALL of Mr Burke's books, and enjoyed getting my "fix" reading his latest here. Something put me off a bit about this book, however, though I'm not sure what it was. It may be the flights from logic that are creeping up more in his books, but they still come across more like literature than pulp fiction, so I'll continue to buy. I think he'd be better served by getting a new PR firm - having the jacket (and here on B&N) read "already being hailed as perhaps the best novel in the Robicheaux series" is completely bogus. Who is hailing it thus? How could it be hailed as such before the book has even been on the market? Maybe that's what put me in a sour mood.
Finished the book yesterday and while I was troubled with the ending I believe this is the best book James Lee Burke has ever written.
James Lee Burke has brought me great pleasure with many of his previous books. So many of them have earned five stars from me as I have been in awe of his writing and his storytelling. The Glass Rainbow doesn't make that list, but I still thought it was a pretty good book. There are flashes of the stellar writing, but the characters and the plot didn't quite add up for me. I think Burke stretched himself in creating this story, perhaps under a time bind or simply an off day. So, when you are used to five star books, a four star seems slightly disappointing, but I have to get a grip here- four stars is still pretty good. But plausible plots and beautiful writing get you five stars.
Please keep writing in your style; no one came come close to the plots, characters, locations, and the thrill of reading.
James Lee Burke continues the Dave Robicheaux Novels with what promises to be the most eerie and gruesome addition to the series so far. The Glass Rainbow is a must read for fans of the series. This book is going to make changes in Robicheaux's life that are going to impact every book that follows. Dave Robicheaux, and those closest to him, will never be the same. The bodies of seven women who have been raped and mutilated have been found in the town of Iberia Parish, where Dave Robicheaux is the deputy sheriff. As Robicheaux works his way through a list of the usual suspects the case takes a few surprising turns. The Glass Rainbow builds an intricate web of suspense, with several obstacles to be overcome as Robicheaux's personal life and professional life collide head on. He finds that in the end his gut-feeling, his intuition, learned from years in the field and rarely wrong, are really the only tools he can trust in this tale of betrayal, conspiracy and violence. Robicheaux watches as the case takes some bizarre twists, setting up those around him to become accused and plunging the reader into the darkest fathoms of Louisiana's brutal, sadistic underbelly. His best friend and fellow investigator, Clete, is accused in the murder of one of the men on their suspect list, leaving Robicheaux alone in his search for a serial killer... or killers. It isn't long before he finds himself the target of a criminal mastermind's wicked schemes. The plot continues to thicken as more bodies turn up, and not just murdered women; suspects and friends have become just as much a target of the violent, masochistic killer, making it obvious that this case is personal. Just as Robicheaux becomes convinced that he's onto the scheme, the tide turns on him and bodies disappear just as quickly as they pop up, leaving his constituents wondering if the respected lawman has perhaps lost his mind. It turns out that Robicheaux is not only looking for a serial murderer and rapist, but for someone who is one step ahead of him in the game, someone who has the power to call in professionals-and they have no problem going after a small town deputy and everyone close to him. Someone who seems to know exactly how Robicheaux works and thinks and who is bent on ensnaring him in a brilliant, well-laid trap. Bringing the case a little too close to home he also realizes that his own daughter, Alafair, might be directly in the path of the crazed and perverted serial killer. Robicheaux finds that he must get his own hands dirty in order to save those he knows are innocent, and to protect those he loves. He must take everything he knows, everything that training and instinct tells him to do--his very own nature, and reverse it in order to throw the murderer off balance and ensnare him, or them, in a trap of his own brilliant design. But it might just be too late, The Glass Rainbow wraps up with events that will forever change, not only the deputy sheriff himself, but everyone he holds dear. A lasting impact on all of their lives and on future novels. James Lee Burke has once again proven his talent for creating masterful, intricate mysteries that draw the reader in. This book is a twisting, turning, suspense-filled thriller. A terrifying roller coaster ride that takes the reader on a nightmarish trip into the darkest depths of human depravity. This a book that I would highly recommend, but not for reading at night, and particularly not when alone.
I'm still somewhat stunned by the end of the book which I finished just a few hours ago. I'm not sure what to make of it but it has to be one of the greatest endings of all time. I won't say more than that so as not to spoil the book for future readers.Dave Robicheaux is still plugging away as a detective in New Iberia, Lousiana, but in this book his detecting takes him into the neighbouring districts. Seven young women in Jefferson Davis Parish have been killed but no-one seems to be doing anything about it. One of them, Bernadette Latiolais, seemed different from the rest of the victims. She was smart and not into partying or prostitution. Her brother who is on a prison gang in Mississippi wants to talk to Dave. He fingers a notorious pimp, Herman Stanga. Dave talks to Stanga but makes no headway. Then Clete Purcell gets in on the act. Clete does not have the restraint that Dave does but neither does he have the limitations of being a policeman. He beats Stanga up in front of many witnesses.But maybe Stanga isn't the guilty party. Dave does not like his daughter, Alafair's new boyfriend, Kermit Abelard, and he especially doesn't like Kermit's buddy, ex-convict and new author Robert Weingart. As he pursues his investigation the Abelard/Weingart names keep coming up and Dave doesn't think he is jealous of Alafair's love interest. He's afraid Alafair may be coming into contact with genuine evil.We really get to see a lot of Clete Purcell in this book. Clete is everything Dave is not. He's a boozer, a womanizer and maybe crazy too boot. But he really does look out for Dave and he has his own ethics that he follows. I finally get why Dave puts up with Clete.Burke's writing about Louisiana is a paean to a land he obviously loves. It was pure pleasure to read his descriptions of sunrises, sunsets and drives through green countryside with herons standing by the side of bayeux. Some day I hope to get there but until then it was sure nice to get away from a cold January in Winnipeg to explore New Iberia and surroundings with Dave Robicheaux.
#14-The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke- I listened to this on audiobook with my husband. Burke is one of our favorite authors and his Dave Robichaux stories are also our favorites. Clete Purcell, Dave's sidekick is so amusing! You never know what is going to come out of his mouth. Some of Burke's story-lines are not as intriguing as others but this is one of the more entertaining ones. I always enjoy his bad guys because they seem to be the kind of people you could meet any time, but definitely hope you don't. Dave's daughter is a constant presence; he saved her from a submerged helicopter in which her parents died and he became her foster father. His new wife, Molly, is a reformed nun. Much of the action takes place all over New Orleans, making for a fabulous setting. It contributes to the eerie often mysterious and frightening mood which Dave finds himself in while pursuing his adversaries. In "Rainbow" his daughter becomes involved with some shady characters who may be responsible for the deaths of some young women. As always, Clete finds himself involved with one of the female players,who may or may not be involved also. I highly recommend this on audiobook as read by Will Patton , who I see as the Dave Robichaux character. His voice is perfect. Other readers do not entice me nearly as much and I have passed some of those over after listening to the first cd and realizing the gentleman could not pull it off like Mr. Patton. If you enjoy reading a good mystery, pick this one up
I absolutely loved this book and Dave Robicheaux's character. James Lee Burke is one of my favorite authors and his writing style is not only brilliantly descriptive, but deep from the soul!
If Clete Purcel is involved, the story has to be a good one. The last thirty or forty pages, for me, were a non-stop climax read in a single-sitting that ended in a cliff-hanger that I don't remember occuring in another Robicheaux book.
Have you ever smelled the magnolias, tasted the gumbo, seen the Spanish moss strung like Christmas garlands in the live oaks, heard the rain play on a tin roof, felt the damp salt breeze off the Gulf of Mexico? And the fleeting visions in the corner of your eye are indeed ghosts of an antebellum past, in the land of Marie Laveau. James Lee Burke's gifts are such that you will experience all of these things right there in your own home or in the coffee shop or on the evening train, even if you have never made it to New Orleans (NuOrlans) or south to New Iberia Parish.Mr. Burke is the recipient of two Edgars (Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel of the year), awarded by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA), the only author to win more than one. In 2009 he was named a "Grand Master" by the MWA. He also received the Louisiana Writer Award presented by the now Governor of Louisiana Kathleen Blanco. Mr. Burke is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Bread Loaf Fellow and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow (NEA). The Lost Get Back Boogie, his fourth novel, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He also taught creative writing at Wichita State University.The Glass Rainbow is the best James Lee Burke novel, the best Dave Robicheaux tale. The novel begins with the investigation of the deaths of seven girls and young women. There is a list of suspects: an heir to a plantation fortune turned author of historical novels; an ex-con turned author of a novel about his prison time (one of those people made famous by an affluent "sophisticated" readership living vicariously on illicit thrills); a swamp-wise dealer/pimp/entrepreneur who preys expertly on desperate people with dreams of a significant life; a nouveaux-riche millionaire and his wife with old money pretensions, under investigation by the IRS and the SEC. Dave Robicheaux, New Iberia Parish Sheriff Detective, Vietnam vet and recovering alcoholic who harbors no illusions about his fellow man, is conducting the investigation into the young women's deaths. As always, best friend and private investigator Clete Purcel, Vietnam Vet, disgraced former cop and alcoholic with a death wish (who is somehow adorable despite these things), has his back (sometimes in the form of ag assault and maybe justifiable homicide.) The extra ingredient in this mix is the presence of Dave's daughter Alafair, home for the summer between college and law school. She is also writing a novel (there's a lot of writing going on here) and becomes involved with Kermit Abelard, aforementioned plantation heir from our suspect list.This brew comes to a boil with results that I did not see coming. I kept counting the pages because I did not want it to end. This novel changes everything. Nothing in Dave and Clete's world will ever be the same. By the climax of The Glass Rainbow I was holding my breath with tears in my eyes.
Clete is going crazy here, Molly (the latest after Bootsie) is the epitome of female flesh and emotions (as well as an ex-nun, well, kinda sorta), Tripod is super-cute, as usual, but here you know he has to be put down soon. Way old. Alifah is visiting from college with her boy friend, who is 10 years older than her and tangled with several international nasties, causing :David great emotional distrees, . But the involvement of these other characters, which would be peripheral or limited in others' work, issue forth stridently within Robincheaux's life, as well as his life experiences (although we are wearing the Vietnam War war experiance out ( Iraq showed us we haven't learned a dmaned thing as a nation). The arch-nemises is here in the form of an old "Southern" family who made their killing (no pun intended) on the backs of butternut -brown-wearing soldiers by continuing and raising production that passed the Yankees picket lines and was sold to the North. Oh, yeah! That will put the mouth of the south to work. You bet. Rhe following is a post script after reading the rev iews. I think what bothered people mostly is the failure of resolution by the auhtor. Well, it is not his job to resolve the plot. It is the reader's and I have resolvedit sufficiently to suit me. What some call the supernatural is a movement in American literature that began (if you had to pick a date or book) with William Kennedy's IRONWEED. Magical rfeasism involves other dimensions (usually time eras, but not always) and is a favorite device of fantasy and sci-fi writers. Without this knowledge or other thaqn classical literature, one has only to turn to metaphor and, frnakly, magacal realism is waaay beyondd metaphor. Mataphor is a touch of black pepper. MR is hubunero sauce, pure and sometimes painful on the palate When I was graduated with my M.A. some 20 plus years ao, MRF and another movement called neo-minimalism as exhibited by Carolyn Chute 9BEANS OF EGYPT MAINE) and Raymond Carver were the two contingicies at that time for modern lit study.
James Lee Burke has always been a go-to writer for me. His Dave Robichaux series, in particular, has given me many hours of entertainment and an appreciation of writing place that I did not have before. Set in southern Louisiana, these books tell the story of Dave Robichaux and his friend and former partner in the New Orleans Police Department, Clete Purcel. Both men are deeply flawed, alcoholics in and out of recovery, and men who stand by their own code of honor as they become involved in the crimes they encounter.Burke understands southern Louisiana - the look, the feel, the smells, the sounds, and its people. His books always present nuanced characters and plots that are deeply embedded within decades of Louisiana history. He does not romanticize, but he does not denigrate, either. Rather he celebrates the good of a life that was, the bad of that life, and the present as we all watch places like New Iberia and New Orleans swept off the map by hurricanes and government neglect.Burke never ceases to make me want to read over and over again and he always makes me homesick for the South with all its flawed beauty. Glass Rainbow is one of the best in this series - if you're a fan, read it. If you're not a fan, I envy you. Start at the beginning of the series and work your way through - you won't be sorry.
How do you review a James Lee Burke book? The man is one of the greatest writers of all time. It doesn't matter that he writes in the crime category. These books are works of literature and The Glass Rainbow is no different. As always, set in Louisiana and illuminating the intersection between the past and the present, this book has Dave contemplating his mortality. Clute, his long time partner, has no interest in such introspection. All kinds of turmoil erupts. Strongly recommend this book
Pretty good storyline...clete purcell is a helluva character....burke gets a little too philosophical for me sometimes...contrived ending stretched reality.
The best yet from James Lee Burke. A brooding, introspective, spiritually sensitive protagonist. Luminous descriptions of Louisiana. This novel begs to be made into a dynamite movie,
I loved this book until I got to the extremely unsatisfying ending. I don't mind cliffhangers, so the disposition of Cleve and Dave are bearable. But the details of plot has so many loose ends that I feel betrayed as if the reader is just supposed to trust that the endless plot strings do tie together--HOW???????????? Why was the Canadian girl tortured and murdered and are the murders of 5 other girls related? Why was ritzy Catherine in cahoots with sociopaths Robert and Kermit? Was the grandfather in on whatever criminal scheme they all had going? Just what did they all have going? WAY TOO MANY unanswered plot elements. I listened to this book on tape because the reader does such a great job with the accents and various voices (especially Clete's), so maybe if I'd had the print version to refer back to events I could figure some of this out. BUT I DOUBT IT. Beautiful writing but disappointing plot development.
Another fabulously written mystery by Burke! What an ending! Robicheaux and Purcell are at their best, saving families and ending the lives of the evil.
Disappointing. This author can deliver better plot lines than this one.
Still lovin' James Lee. Will they live or die? Have to see the next book
I love this author; his characters and dialog are just wonderful. And I have read his earlier works about this Dave Robicheaux character and thoroughly enjoyed them. I enjoyed this one too, although I found it to be too long. Much toooooooo long! It was almost as if Burke had a pocketful of ideas written on scrap paper that he had thought of and kept pulling them out and writing about them. It should have been 50-75 pages shorter - but I still liked it. Another annoyance was his increasing use of the supernatural; visions of ghost ships, fading body parts, etc. I found them distracting. Was our hero and his sidekick, Clete, killed in the end? I suppose not. I hope not.
JLB is, as always, at his best. I still haven't finished this one but am close. I'm afraid to see if he does away with Dave or Clete, or whomever, or if the "seeer" was looking at the wrong screen. I can't imagine losing Dave or Clete but then again, what's to happen to Jesse Stone and Spencer now that Robert B. Parker is gone? I'm just hoping that JLB will continue writing until he (and I) are "long in the tooth." His writing is beautiful and picturesque and with this one I'm learning a lot of new words. With every book, I read a sentence or a paragraph and it strikes me how beautifully he writes. With this one, too, I keep thinking - let's get to the end - because I can't take the suspense about what's going to happen or to whom it's going to happen. Then when it ends, I think - how long before the next one. As always, 5 stars! As of now, I've finished. Contrary to discussions on Amazon about the survival of the "Bobsey Twins," I choose to believe they go on because I don't want to think of the alternative. Long live JLB and Dave and Clete!