Publication Date: July 17, 2012
In Creole Belle by James Lee Burke, Dave Robicheaux is in the hospital when a young singer visits him and leaves an iPod containing her songs … but did she? The young singer and her sister have been missing for weeks and her sister is found floating in a block of ice in the Gulf of Mexico. On the other side of town, psycho sidekick, Clete, has his own problems with a killer he thinks may be his own flesh and blood.
I first have to say that this was not a terrible book. Dave seems to be having a crisis of conscience that is probably something into which a reader would be drawn if they knew the character. I do not know Dave. I have read all of Mr. Burke’s Billy Bob Holland series — and read them in order — and enjoyed them. This was my first visit with Dave and, it appears, poorly timed. I contacted a friend who knows what I like to read and has long been a fan of the series and she confirmed my suspicion that this is a book for people who know the characters and like them.
I have to state the obvious first. I’m sure those of you who read Burke know that he has a daughter named Alafair. Dave also has a daughter named Alafair who appears to be the mirror version except older and married. Having read her novels, I found it touching to read the fictional version of Alafair who is obviously very close — in fiction and life — to her father. The connection between the two is maybe the one element that made me feel that going back and starting at the beginning would be beneficial. Is Dave Mr. Burke’s “Mary Sue” into the series, and if so, is he as angry and confused as Dave read this novel?
I found Dave himself feeling very shallow by mimicking depth rather than realizing it. The character in Creole Belle was very thinky and superstitious to an extent and I found that element of him extremely off-putting — though in retrospect maybe realistic to the people of the area. The extended introspection and description could probably have been shaved down quite a lot to make Creole Belle a less tedious read. The novel, long by anyone’s standards, seemed to have been dragged out longer than necessary to extend storylines that didn’t seem to be wrapped up with any sort of credibility. Two characters, in particular, have their storylines wrapped a bit too pat to make sense to this reader. The conspiracy at the end lacks purpose and believability. Was this a social commentary applied to the current times that I simply missed? If you read this novel, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the ending.
Creole Belle: A Dave Robicheaux Novel is the nineteenth novel in the Dave Robicheaux series. Is Burke an author running out of steam or is this a case of a reader who needs to start at the beginning or a New York Times Bestseller past his prime?
Check out the excerpt and buy Creole Belle by James Lee Burke on