A little while back I had my first encounter with the character Dave Robicheaux in James Lee Burke’s Black Cherry Blues. It was an audiobook that delivered the story with such a slow Southern drawl that the whole thing was blisteringly addictive. I’m not much up on these modern detective stories with their deliberately flawed main characters, but here was a person who had been through the wringer and had come out a damaged but likeable guy. I enjoyed spending time with him and the other characters. There was a story.
Then I saw that there was a new book out – A Tin Roof Blowdown. Reviews were excellent. The story is set in New Orleans as it is being battered by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Robicheaux’s obvious love for the city and state shines through, along with searing disgust at the way that the people are effectively abandoned by the government. They are condemned because they are mostly black and poor, and the racial faultlines are not just a persistent undercurrent but in your face.
Despite this – and the book could have been solely a commentary on the devastation – this is fiction, and there is still a story, propelled forward by good characters and great dialogue. There is such affection between the principle characters.
This book comes highly recommended – the only problem was that I missed the measured, spoken performance that seared Black Cherry Blues into the subconscious. I couldn’t help but read too fast, and the English voice in my head couldn’t come close to matching the resonance of that Louisiana accent.
I might be tackling the books in a mixed up order, but I’ll definitely be back for more.