Saturday, October 22, 2016

Review of "Light of the World" by James Lee Burke

Louisiana Sheriff's Detective Dave Robichaux is on vacation in Montana with his wife Molly, novelist daughter Alafair, and private detective friend Clete Purcell. They are soon joined by Gretchen Horowitz, the daughter Clete first met when she was an adult. Gretchen, severely abused as a child, was once a hit-woman for the mob. She's now a filmmaker, making a documentary about oil shale drilling. The visitors are staying at the ranch of Dave's friend Albert Hollister, a famous writer and environmental activist.

Trouble soon rears it head when someone shoots an arrow at Alafair while she's jogging. In addition, a local teenage girl, Angel Deer Heart, is abducted and killed. Angel is the adopted daughter of Caspian Younger and his wife Felicity Louviere; Angel's grandfather is Love Younger, one of the wealthiest men in the country. As usual in Burke's books, the 'evil wealthy family' - in this case the Youngers - harbor dark secrets and are apparently up to no good. Clete Purcell also stays true to character and falls under the spell of a beautiful young woman, this time the married Felicity Louviere. As Clete gets older and less healthy in book after book, this trope gets increasingly harder to accept.

Dave comes to suspect that the perpetrator of bad deeds is the sadistic serial killer Asa Surrette, about whom Alafair wrote a series of scathing articles when he was in prison. Though Surette is officially 'dead' - killed when a prison transport was in a fiery collision - Dave is convinced he survived and is in Montana. Dave fears that Surette means to continue his murderous spree in Montana and that he has Alafair in his sights.

Basically the story is about Dave and Clete trying to stop Asa Surette while they expose the sinister doings of the Younger family. Alafair and Gretchen are on board with this agenda, getting into various kinds of trouble along the way. Gretchen especially has the bad luck to meet the worst people imaginable.

There are a plenty of additional characters in the story: a troubled but tough rodeo cowboy, his lady friend, a local sheriff, corrupt law enforcement officers, some vicious thugs, and so on. There is also a prominent sub-theme about whether evil is a real, tangible thing. Dave's frequent musings on the subject seemed a bit hazy to me and somewhat disconnected from the story.

Burke's ongoing characters are favorites of mine and I always enjoy visiting with them in his books. I also liked the basic mystery premise of the story, and even some of the sub-plots. However, there were elements of the story that didn't come together at the end and one odd character seemed to be completely unexplained.

All in all I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to mystery fans.   

Rating: 3 stars

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