My father-in-law likes the author James Lee Burke. I had not read any of his books and so for Christmas last year he bought me one as a gift. The book he chose was the newest at the time, titled “Swan Peak: A Dave Robicheaux Novel.”
First I must tell you I very much enjoy mysteries, suspense and thrillers and so I am sure he thought this would be a good fit. In many ways it really was; it kept my attention and I wanted to continue reading through until the end to find out what would happen.
However, there were many sections where the vulgarity of events taking place were quite offensive. I’m sensitive, but I love Dean Koontz and he has intense scenes in most of his books, too. James Lee Burke was just so descriptive it nearly turned my stomach in certain areas.
Clete and Dave were old friends, they were from New Orleans and the book takes place after hurricane Katrina. So at this time they are vacationing in Mnntana to get away from the ruins of their home. Clete is a PI and Dave is a cop so they have worked together on criminal cases numerous times. Their Montana trip is meant to be relaxing. Dave’s wife Molly is up there and they’re staying with an old friend, Albert Hamilton on his large estate out in the woods.
Unfortunately, the vacation winds up being anything but relaxing when Clete finds himself unknowingly trespassing on the Wellstone’s property. Leslie Wellstone is a well known man in the area who runs Wellstone Ministries. Everything about them is crooked, including the nagging feeling Clete has that Leslie Wellstone is really the burnt up live body of Sally Dio, a criminal who was said to have been blown up in a plane crash. (Apparently this is from a previous book).
Then we have Jimmy Dale Greenwood who is in prison for having helped a hooker who was being beaten up. He got put away as the assailant even though he was innocent. Jimmy Dale is in prison in Texas where the prison guard Nix takes on Jimmy as his toy and rapes him and humiliates him. Until Jimmy Dale has enough and during one of their out of prison trips he attempts to kill Nix with a shank.
Jimmy Dale escapes and winds up in Montana in hopes to reunite with his lost love Jamie Sue and her son Dale. Jamie Sue is now married to Leslie Wellstone. And Nix inevitable winds up all bandaged and irate in Montana as well; searching for Jimmy Dale Greenwood who is now going by the name of J.D. Gribble. And J.D. Gribble gets a job working for Albert Hamilton on his estate.
See how all the pieces sort of fit together?
The FBI gets involved when two college kids are found brutally murdered on Albert’s property. Clete and Dave are interested in the case because of Clete’s run in with the Wellstone’s previously in that week. The kids were involved with Wellstone Ministries and everything about their deaths is suspicious. But who does it involve, who are the killers and who are the criminal minds? Why Albert’s property?
Clete gets too close to the truth and winds up kidnapped, tied to a tree, doused with gasoline and lit on fire. But who is there to put out the fire and save him? None other than J.D. Gribble. Meanwhile Clete has met and slept with Jamie Sue Wellstone, further agitating that situation. And he brags about it a bit with J.D. who we know is in search of reuniting with Jamie Sue.
Trouble just keeps escalating and new clues pop up around every corner. While Clete and Dave are trying to find out who is involved they run into Nix who is in a Church showing people a picture of Jimmy Dale Greenwood and asking if anyone has seen him. Of course Clete has seen him and Jimmy Dale had saved his life, but now Clete knows J.D. is a convict on the run.
I’ll stop with all the spoilers now. Everything gets tied up in the end fairly well. Not too many loose ends or questions. I enjoyed the fact that James Lee Burke was able to connect so many plots and characters without much confusion and without giving away too much of the twists. His descriptions of the surrounding areas, people and events were very vivid and in some cases bothersome. I think I missed out on some development by not having read other books which involved Clete and Dave, but I didn’t miss out on enough to not be able to wrap my mind around the story.
All in all I liked it, I’d be open to reading another of his books. Hopefully one which doesn’t involve a sex-crazed rapist prison guard or ministry.