Celebrated crime master and two-time Edgar Award winner James Lee Burke returns with a gorgeously crafted, brutally resonant chronicle of violence along the Texas-Mexico border.
Sheriff Hackberry Holland patrols a small Southwest Texas border town, meting out punishment and delivering justice in his small square of this magnificent but lawless land. When an alcoholic ex-boxer named Danny Boy Lorca begs to be locked up after witnessing a man tortured to death by a group of bandits, Hack and his deputy, Pam Tibbs, slowly extract the Indian man’s gruesome tale. It becomes clear that the desert contains a multitude of criminals, including serial murderer Preacher Jack Collins (whom The New York Times called “one of Burke’s most inspired villains”).
Holland’s investigation leads him to Anton Ling, a mysterious Chinese woman whose steely demeanor and aristocratic beauty compel Hackberry to return to her home again and again as the investigation unfolds.
James Lee Burke is at his engrossing and atmospheric best in this, his 13th novel, as Hackberry plumbs the depths of man’s inhumanity to man - from killers-for-hire, to the U.S. government, to the misguided souls in search of a better life across the border.
©2011 James Lee Burke (P)2011 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
“[O]utstanding.... The richness of Burke's characters, always one of his strengths, reaches new heights.... The intricately plotted narrative takes numerous unexpected turns, and Burke handles his trademark themes of social justice and corruption with his usual subtlety.” (Publishers Weekly)
“As Burke steers the elaborately structured narrative toward its violent conclusion, we are afforded looks inside the tortured psyches of his various combatants, finding there the most unlikely of connections between the players. This is one of Burke’s biggest novels, in terms of narrative design, thematic richness, and character interplay, and he rises to the occasion superbly, a stand-up guy at the keyboard, as always... Though he is best known for his Dave Robicheaux series, the broader canvas of this Hackberry Holland adventure makes a fittingly grand stage on which to play out such a landmark event in American publishing.” (Bill Ott, Booklist)
“The dialogue scenes, along with the action sequences, the South Texas landscape and the indelibly conflicted characters make you want to give Burke a medal.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"Lay Down My Sword & Shield," the book that introduced me to Hackberry Holland, was disappointing to this fan of the Dave Robicheaux series. "Feast Day of Fools" redeems both the author and the character.
In "Feast Day," Holland is some 40 years older, and much the wiser. He's a man of principle, which he wasn't in the last book. As repellant as he was, he becomes a sympathetic and admirable character.
The book moves at a good clip, and engages the listener immediately. I found myself rewinding to make sure I hadn't missed, or misunderstood, anything. The book tells a story that involves a vicious and demented serial killer, agents of a Mexican drug cartel, agents of the U.S. government, and a charismatic ex-CIA operative turned faith healer. The ending is surprising, and very satisfying.
Will Patton does a good job of narrating, although at times his accents got a bit jumbled. It didn't really detract from the book, but it's why I didn't give him 5 stars.
Do yourself a favor and spend a credit on this one. You won't regret it.
Most of the reviews I've read thus far, in spite of the disparity they contain, have valid points. I'll offer what I think is probably most helpful to someone considering this book: Burke is flat out a magnificent writer, his command of language, his artistic prose, his adeptness at continuity, and his strong characters. I don't know that anyone, besides Cormac McCarthy, can tell a such a raw story more beautifully, which is some feat when it comes to describing horrific gore and violence. But he does so in a disconnected slow motion way that makes it tolerable and crucial to the story. He does not seem to worry about abridgement--and why should he? People crave fast action, in-your-face stories, and Burke doesn't write for that market. He could be accused of filling the pages with, as one reviewer put it, "kitchen sink" characters and plots--so may be best enjoyed in small doses rather than devoured in a 16 hr. marathon. (*Possibly consider the abridged edition?) This is not fast food, but rather a dining experience. It is intense, rich, and can give you something like heartburn if you consume it all at one sitting; you need to walk away from this feast every now and then to avoid overload. The landscapes are so vividly described you all most choke on the dust, the characters, especially Hackberry (who ironically accuses himself of speaking too many "idle thoughts") is amazingly sculpted by Burke. This is not a book that will sit nicely in your head, but savored in bits is a great read. Will Patton is flawless in his narration, where in Rain Gods (previous novel about Preacher Collins) I thought his twang was heavy and distracting. If you know what your getting in for, I highly recommend.
Another homerun by James Lee Burke. Story is amazing and you wont be able to stop listneing once you get started. Also, Will Patton is his usual smooth self narrating this book. Burke and Patton are a tough team to beat....there's no duo better than them.
I love James Lee Burke: his ability to create a sense of place is superb and I so enjoy his characters. In his latest book about Hackberry Holland, I could feel the heat, smell the smoke and see the sky. I`m not sure who I like the most, Dave Robicheaux or Hackberry Holland but I do know that I am never disappointed when I read a book about either one of them. The performance by Will Patton is wonderful - I can still hear his warm, sure, and wise voice in my head. Highly recommended.
Dept Q, Harry Hole... where are you?
I find Burke to be one of the best novelists in the suspense genre. His characters are flawed, believable and wonderful to discover.
This book is one of a series about a sheriff of a small town on the Texas/Mexico border with a dark past, Hackberry Holland, but it is not necessary to read any of them in order.
Will Patton is a remarkable actor and the best reader I have encountered. He brings the characters to life and makes Burke's unique and eloquent prose a haven of pleasure.
I love books!
I really enjoy James Lee Burke, he has become one of my faborite authors. And, Will Patton is a great narrator. Burke has good insight into human nature and comes up with some colorful characters. He brings history into his stories and weaves a great tale. Most of his books have been about Detective Dave Robicheaux and they are great set both in Louisiana and Montane. Now, with Sheriff Hackberry Holland he writes about SW Texas along the border where the good buys and bad guys are going both ways across the border.
The one major complaint about James Lee Burke's novels is that they end. The writer continues his quest to personify evil. Across his pages come men (I can't remember any women) of iniquitous character and malevolent nature who take the listener's breath away as Will Patton transports them to your elbow. The Feast Day of Fools (great title) has it all: Sheriff Holland and his deputy Pam Tibbs, who have an unusual personal and professional relationship, fight against eclectic array of evil doers including the resurrected serial killer Preacher Jack Collins, a degenerate Russian arms dealer (perhaps the most evil of the lot), strange men named Krill and Negrito, another preacher, Rev. Cody Daniels and a multitude of other criminals. If that were not enough to keep the reader or listener glued to the pages or enthralled by Will Patton's marvelous acting, we encounter an Asian women, Anton Ling, with a murky past whose home is the conduit for starving Mexican workers and their families and finally Danny Boy Lorca, an alcoholic ex-boxer who arrives on the Sheriff's doorstep begging to be locked up.
Enough said! Perhaps to add that this novel is about more than violent actions and evil men. It's an allegory about politics, religion, the environment, energy, the rich and the poor...
No fair! 2 days before credits, and you release the new JLB. King of the simile, a writer so good you can smell the bait on the dock and feel the heat of the sand through the soles of your shoes. Mr. Burke is a true master, and Mr. Patton is perfect every time.
I resisted the impulse to buy it (without credits) for about 3 seconds.
In short, you had me at James Lee Burke.
With enough implausible, over-the-top villains to fill several novels Mr. Burke has gone too far, too often for this reader and that's just the start of my criticism of this ponderous tome. As I was unable to find the kitchen sink, I must not claim that there are too many fantastical plots and sub-plots in this one, but if boiled down the story could have been done quite well in one hundred pages, a la Cormac McCarthy.
Burke's insistence on flooding us with (brown) sugary poetic interludes at every turn is making his novels seem as wondrously unreal and out of control as an experience with powerful LSD. Life is simply not like that for most of us, that is, rich, opulent gilded images do not occur with the regularity of heart beats as we pass through life.
And dark, oh so dark. These folks are bad people and extremely unfortunate people and extremely disturbed people or angry, or horny or you name it; they are extremely it. And that gets more than a little tedious and one needs to come up for air occasionally.
And the plot get subjugated by all this munificent beauty and darkness.
The plot, oh yes, that. Far fetched and redolent of even more contemporary terror, it hangs in the background like a Edvard Munch nightmare, overwhelmed by the incessant images of degradation and premature burial and other unmitigated evil. It is all just too much.
Will Patton must have been suicidal after the experience, but his performance was by far the most constrained and professional element of this audible book.
Burke is a great writer but he may have gone to the well dozens of times too often with this one. It is not often that I have such a protracted nauseating visceral revulsion when reading an espionage thriller.
My God man, throw in something approximating normal occasionally so we can get a sense of where and who we are.
I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get.
I don't know how to answer this question, as I never read the print version. I do want to expand on my view of Mr. Burke and his development over the past twenty-five or thirty years of writing. His gifts are remarkable. I never in my life wanted to visit Iberia Parish, Louisiana until Mr. Burke made me smell the bougainvillea. His ability to make you see, smell and taste the environment of his settings is unparalleled among contemporary authors. When Dave Robicheaux began spending his summers in the Bitteroot Mountains of Montana I was delighted to be able to live in that location for the length of those books. I found Dave R. and his sidekick Clete Purcell distinctly complex men, riddled with post-traumatic stresses from Viet Nam, by the ravages of alcoholism, and by their revulsion at how criminals had ruined the lives of the underclasses in Louisiana, and all over the South. Mr. Burke created amazing Southern Gothic characters, drawn from an imagination which apparently had no bottom whatsoever. I laughed and I cried, truly. I felt Dave's shame, his love for his two wives and for his adopted daughter Alafair, who is now in real life an author living in NYC and writing crime novels herself. Dave and Clete tried hard to bootstrap themselves above their personal tragedies, generally with minor triumphs but with the ferocious dark side always lurking in the end, waiting for another stab at Dave's heart.
I seem to have written a fairly long paragraph without even mentioning Hackberry Holland. Backstory, I guess. I was glad to see that Mr. Burke had branched out in such a serious way, particularly after writing twenty Dave Robicheaux novels. What a fountain he is! Hack is a very different guy from Dave, and the structure of this book is quite different. Minus Clete, plus Pam Tibbs. Minus Louisiana, plus the Texas-Mexico border. Unfortunately for us, I think, plus plus plus the relentless violence, as my fellow readers have pointed out. This issue has now gone way overboard and has now reached the baroque. When a particularly bizarre character gets nailed to a cross, then shot through the heart, and then set on fire in his own church by another over-the-top bizarre character: this is just about too too much for me. I understand that Mr. Burke has been exorcising personal demons through thirty years of writing, but, uh, maybe he might try some psychotherapy. Really. There must be a point at which there is just too much of this stuff. I would fully enjoy his books if at least half of the brutal violence were edited out, and maybe more than that. Mr. Burke's writing is still mesmerizing. He has not lost any of his talents. He should lose some of the senseless violence. I, as ad hoc president of his fan club, hereby say, Enough!
Luckily for Mr. Burke, Will Patton is there to pull his feet out of the fire. Literally. Mr. Patton has elevated these books beyond the fantastic to the simply exquisite (I am searching for adjectives here). I love Will Patton. He can do no wrong. I wish HE would tell Mr. Burke that there's too much violence.
You can't possibly do that. It would make you retch. You need some time for your stomach to settle down.
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