Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke
Getting annoying, August 11, 2003
Although Purple Cane Road is worth reading, the Robicheaux series is losing its appeal. I enjoyed the early books in the series but lost track of Burke some time after Dixie City Jam. In rejoining the series with this book, several facts became strikingly clear. First, Burke remains a skilled atmospheric writer. The bloodred skies, the gum trees and schooling fish, the blowing rain and leaves, the physical appearance of the characters -- Burke can certainly paint a scene. Second, Dave remains as humorless and grim and earnest and possessed by ""demons'' as ever, and frankly I'm tired of it. In 341 pages, I had one involuntary laugh. (And that was when the sheriff made light of Dave's weirdness.) Didn't Marlowe and Lew Archer have a similarly admirable (if unconventional) moral code, without having to beat everyone over the head with it? No one is asking Dave to be a comic, but a lead character must be appealing, and Dave isn't. Third, Burke still writes excellent, snappy, idiomatic dialogue. It's great fun to read characters talking about about ""flushing'' someone's ""grits'' and other colorful euphemisms for killing. Beyond these general observations, some specifics. Other reviewers have pointed out that the Alafair infatuation is wholly unrealistic; I agree. (I am also tired of Dave calling her ""Alf'' despite her wish going back several books that he use her full name.) Cletus is on tilt, and that's fine; he's one of the main attractions of the series. And as with others in the series, it doesn't pay to try to diagram all the plot twists, or holes, in Purple Cane Road. Just read and enjoy. Burke has created Robicheaux and he has to live with him; I don't. So although this was a fairly satisfying read, the annoyances detailed here will keep me from running out to buy the next in the series.