Monday, July 3, 2017

THE NEON RAIN by James Lee Burke (1st Dave Robicheaux series)

Finished Su 7/2/17

This is a trade paperback that I borrowed from the library at the Contemporary Books Club meeting last Wednesday evening.

Dave is single and working as a detective for the New Orleans Police. His partner is Clete Purcell and he lives on a houseboat. He's an alcoholic and working the twelve steps.

The novel opens as Dave visits a man about to executed. Dave helped this man with his alcoholism and the man has heard that there is a hit out on Dave. Later, while fishing in the Bayou he finds the body of a young black woman. She's an overdose victim, Dave thinks it murder, and the authorities do nothing. These two incidents kick off the action.

Crooked cops try to kidnap Dave and he gets the better of them. Annie, his future wife, drives by and they escape in her car. She is a social worker from Kansas, and it's later revealed that she has lost a baby while pregnant- seven months.She was saving her grandfather who was working the farm during a bad storm. A farm implement had fallen on him.

Three men invade and capture Dave and Annie while at Annie's apartment. They escape but Annie is assaulted by one of the men. Later, Clete kills that man for a ten thousand dollar pay off from the mob. He's now a crooked cop and at the end of the novel he leaves for Central America. He leaves a note saying that his wife can keep his toothbrush, and he didn't even bother to shut the doors of his car when he abandons it at the airport. Dave learns in a letter from Clete that he's working for the paramilitary (Contras) and says that they are all kids and anyone with a case of Clearasil could rule.

We meet Dave's half brother, Jimmie;  "Gentleman Jimmie". He owns a successful restaurant in New Orleans and he's a very popular 'give to get along kind of guy'. He entertains mobsters, but he is an ethical man.

Didi Gee (Dee Dee Giancano) is a three hundred pound gangster mafia leader who puts a hit on Jimmie. The government is going to shut down Gee's enterprise and they are going to subpoena Jimmie and Didi knows that Jimmie won't lie, so he's gotta go. The hit is staged so that Didi has an alibi because he has invited Dave to his restaurant for a meal- Dave is with the mobster at the time of the hit..
Later Dave attacks this man at his restaurant with a canvas bag filled with heavy metal objects.

The other villains are federal authorities who are working against the Sandinistas. A high ranking officer (retired general) is involved because of guilt over his son's involvement at My Lai- the area was known as 'Pinkville' by the American troops.

Dave is cleared of all charges as he was on unpaid leave for most of the novel, but he resigns from the NOPO and moves to New Iberia, where he grew up.

This is Burke's sixth novel, but the first of the Robicheaux series, and I can't wait to re-read the second in the series. They're all great!

From Library Journal at the book's page at amazon-

"New Orleans homicide cop Dave Robicheaux has a passion for fishing. While pursuing his hobby on a back country bayou, Robicheaux finds a body. His discovery pulls him into a network of small-time Mafiosi, Nicaraguan drug dealers, federal Treasury agents and retired two-star generals all involved in a plot to ship arms to the Nicaraguan contras. More interesting than the unraveling of this plot is Robicheaux himself Cajun, recovering alcoholic, practicing Catholic And his efforts to preserve his integrity in the face of provocation. Better still are Burke's evocative descriptions of New Orleans life both high and low. (The book is marred slightly by a resemblance to the Travis McGee series Robicheaux lives on a houseboat and has a penchant for color-laden metaphor. But Neon Rain is a well-crafted novel with a likable hero)"

- I don't know if I would agree with this observation. Travis is not as 'rough and tumble' as Dave. Dave's always on edge due to his alcoholism, and although Travis is no teetotaler, his drinking is not even in the same league as Dave's. Even when he is not drinking, Dave's evil, drunken angel is always just below the surface).

The morning after I finished the book, Mo 7/3/17, I checked the library website to see if HEAVEN'S PRISONERS, the second novel, was available in Ebook form. But, I found that it was available  to watch on Hoopla. I checked it out and watched it on the living room PC. I'm going to take advantage of this excellent library feature.

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