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The Glass Rainbow - James Lee Burke “The evening sky was streaked with purple, the color of torn plums, and a light rain had started to fall when I came to the end of the blacktop road that cut through twenty miles of thick, almost impenetrable scrub oak and pine and stopped at the front gate of Angola penitentiary.”


This is the opening line to what became a long relationship between myself and Dave Robicheaux. It all begins with The Neon Rain and though not his best book, (he peaks in the middle of the series somewhere around Black Cherry Blues ) it is still where a reader must begin. I love his prose. He shares his vision of Louisiana with the reader with descriptive terminology that brings Louisiana right to the arm of your reading chair. Now as pretty as he makes Louisiana sound he also describes the dark underbelly of the Big Easy. One moment you want to spend time gazing around the state with poetry in your mind and the next minute you want to put the car in gear and smoke your tires getting away from there as fast as possible.

Alec Baldwin playing Dave Robicheaux in Heaven's Prisoners

Now Dave is a drunk that has worked his way back to sobriety. I learned more about addictive behavior and the daily battle that must be waged to stay sober in the first few books of this series than I have in any other novels that touch on the subject. It is an on going theme through out the series and Dave in all his imperfections does occasionally stumble. I had a friend who is in the program describe it to me one time. The guy in his brain who wants to drink is in a cage and all he is doing while he is in that cage is doing push ups and pull ups and getting stronger and as long as you know that he is stronger than when you last met him you hope the fear of seeing him unleashed will keep you walking the line.

Tommy Lee Jones playing Dave Robicheaux In the Electric Mist

Clete Purcel is Dave's friend and partner, though by the time of *The Glass Rainbow*, Clete has long since been mustered out of the police force, but when the chips are down he is still the guy that Dave wants watching his back. For Dave the line dividing legal and illegal police behavior does blur, but for Clete the laws of the land are always secondary to his own ideas of justice. Dave spends a good bit of time trying to keep Clete out of trouble. Both have their heart in the right place, but the same demon drives both of them and seeing people hurt or disadvantaged people under the thumb of those with all the advantages brings out the worst and best in them.

"In his own mind, Clete was still a cop. His mistakes at NOPD, his history of addiction and vigilantism and involvement with biker girls and junkie strippers and street skells of every stripe all seemed to disappear from his memory, as though the justice of his cause were absolution enough and his misdeeds were simply burnt offerings that should not be held against him."

In The Glass Rainbow Dave and Clete find themselves investigating the murder of several young girls. An ex-con Robert Weingart, who was freed from prison by the intervention of the Abelard family, is the focus of the investigation. He was released after writing a book that was compared to Soul on Ice and the state decided that he was reformed...enough. Kermit Abelard is dating Alafair, the daughter of Dave Robicheaux. He is wealthy, attractive, a published writer, and emotionally available to an impressionable young lady. Kermit just happens to prefer going to the bed sheet rodeo with Robert Weingart. Needless to say Alafair may be a modern woman, but she ain't that modern. As the investigation continues it becomes evident that the real reason these girls are turning up dead has to do with a land deal that would allow an ethanol plant to be built. Scumbags, professional cleaners, an ex-college tennis player, a rich ex-cop, a crooked prison guard, old money and new money all figure in the plot of the novel. As they weave their way through the investigation Dave and Clete find themselves on both sides of the law. As the lies unravel for all those involved the desperation of the liars and our heroes comes to one last stand where even I was wondering if this was going to be the last Dave Robicheaux novel.

James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke does weave some philosophy into all his novels. Those moments of self-reflection which Dave has as he tries to determine if he is doing more good than harm.

“In that moment, when watches and clocks misbehave and you feel a cold vapor wrap itself around your heart, you unconsciously draw a line at the bottom of a long column of numbers and come up with a sum. Perhaps it's one that fills you with contentment and endows you with a level of courage and an acceptance that you didn't know you possessed.
Or maybe not.”

"If you're lucky, at a certain age you finally learn not to contend with the world or try to explain that the application of reason has little or nothing to do with the realities that exist just on the other side of one's fingertips."

“It has been my experience that most human stories are circular rather than linear. Regardless of the path we choose, we somehow end up where we commenced - in part, I suspect, because the child who lives in us goes along for the ride.”

Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel are crusaders, broken, flawed, wonderful men who have their own idea of justice and frequently pay the price for doing their best to keep people safe. In the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men "You want me on that wall." I do with utmost certainty want Dave and Clete on that wall.