Dave Robicheaux has spent his life confronting the age-old adage that the sins of the father pass on to the son. But what was his mother's legacy? Dead to him since his youth, Mae Guillory has been shuttered away in the deep recesses of Robicheaux's mind. He's lived with the fact that he would never really know what happened to the woman who left him to the devices of a whiskey-driven father. But deep down, Dave still feels the loss of his mother and knows that the infinite series of disappointments in her life could not have come to a good end.
While helping out an old friend, Dave is stunned when a pimp looks at him sideways and asks if he is the son of Mae Guillory, the whore a bunch of cops murdered 30 years ago. Her body was dumped in the bayou bordering Purple Cane Road, and the cops who left her there are still on the job.
Dave's search for his mother's killers leads him to the darker places in his past, and solving this case teaches him what it means to be his mother's son. Purple Cane Road has the dimensions of a classic - passion, murder, and nearly heartbreaking poignancy - wrapped in a wonderfully executed plot that surprises from start to finish.
©2000 James Lee Burke (P)2012 Simon & Schuster Audio
I've read all Burke's Robicheaux books so far, and in order. First: narration. Will Patton read the first two, then Mark Hammer took over. At first I didn't like Hammer after the nearly pitch-perfect Patton, but by the 4th book, I realized how good he was. The one thing that makes Hammer not work for me, however, is that there is no getting around the fact that he sounds too old for Robicheaux. And for the women who are hard to distinguish from the men. Now we have Nick Sullivan. He has a pleasant voice and I'm sure he does well on other books, but he is not the reader for this series. And really, how is it our Dave the Cajun, Bootsie, Alafair and Clete don't have ANY accents, but everyone Else has some kind of southern-ish accent? I'm looking forward to Mark Hammer again, and then yes! Will Patton.
As for the books themselves, they deserve a very close listen. I needed something easy but good to 'read' while working on this fixer-upper we have. I'd heard about Burke for years, so I started with Neon Rain--not at all my favorite. But I kept going. And soon came to realize how much texture and complexity is in each book and how VERY much I enjoyed the little background and contextual jewels which are such great insights into the Bayou/Southern culture. Burke has a remarkable touch with this technique of building a story. Even though he could have used a better editor on this series (too much "protean", "fecund", "ceramic or porcelain", "gibbous", "come/came a borning", and skin-around-eyes-tightening, et al), I never got tired of listening to the rich, descriptive prose--especially as a context for the tightly wound, taciturn protagonist. I also love the moments of humor tucked so subtly into the writing.
There are other flaws. Any male worth his salt in this series is a Vietnam Vet, sometimes the "damaged warrior" gets a bit overdone, there has not been one female role so far which excited me, and sometimes I want to slap Dave upside the head. Last criticism. Using Dave as first person narrator puts the intricate descriptions of events occurring out of his presence into some question, but in the end it's not bothersome. None of these issues seem to impede my enjoyment of the series, thoroughly liberal feminist though I am.
One thing I found very interesting...the time frame. I don't know if it's because of the author's age which pretty much coincides with his hero's, or if it's because in some ways the South is just that much stuck in it's past, and though the time period is obvious from information in the books, I often feel sucked back into the '50's. I am looking forward to the rest of the series, and then a re-read or two down the road.
This narrator did not relate to the characters being read. AT.ALL. The narration is rushed and has none of the cadence or personality of the southern Louisiana dialect. It greatly distracted from one of the best stories in the series. My brain kept trying to disconnect from the reading.
I love James Lee Burke and have great anticipation for his books. Having said that I believe that Nick Sullivan can probably read anything else but he is not authentic in a Louisiana setting. It is very difficult to tell when the character changes and there is no Louisiana cadence. Will Patton is 100% more successful and I look forward to his low, lazy voice. Please find something else for Nick Sullivan.
I have all of Burke's books. When Mark Hammer or Will Patton narrate, it is time well spent. With Nick Sullivan, not so much. The man doesn't even have a mild southern accent let alone any hope of giving Dave and Cletus the Cajun inflections and cadence. What were you thinking, Audio.com??
This Robicheaux book has a very good plot, and was easy to follow.
After listening to perhaps 200 books, this is the first review I have written. The reader, Nick Sullivan, has done well over 100 books, so he is not a beginner. But my feeling is that he would be better suited for something by Crighton or some other suspense thriller author, and I have probably heard him before.. He just does not make it in this book. His interpretation of a Creole accent was distracting, no matter how accurate it may have been -- I don't know. And he ruined my concept of Helen Soileau. I note he does not read any more Burke-Robicheaux books.
That said, the plot in this book is fantastic, and I would put it in the list of best of the Robicheaux books, the others for me being Neon Rain and Pegasus Descending. A while back I decided to read (listen to) all of them, from the beginning, this being the latest. I have at least 8 to go (though I've already read Pegasus - my first one - can't wait to read it again).I have a list of all the books, in order, with readers.
I note that Mark Hammer comes back for 2 books, and then it is Will Patton all the way. I like both of them, Patton for his slow style and drawls, Hammer takes it a little quicker, and I like that too..His accents are fantastic. Clete just comes alive for me when either of them read. But just give me Will Patton, and I can go down to Louisiana for a while in my mind, anytime I want.
I love New Orleans though I never spent much time there. It is the culture and language that set it apart from almost anywhere else in the world. So the narration is important to the story. Nick Sullivan is a good narrator but his interpretation of the French-Cajun dialect does determent to the story.
People of Louisianan are a mixture of almost all Caribbean cultures but the narrator uses a distinctively Jamaican accent to interpret the French creole. Burke is a great student of language in his stories. In many of his books, he can determine a person’s origin by listening to the dialect. So we as his readers and listeners know how important this is to him and the story line.
It is akin to substituting Maurice Chevalier with Jar Jar Binks and hoping no one notices.
As always Burke has a point of view or observation that is completely fresh, naked, and free from self delusion. He is like Hemingway. He writes about the things he knows and dares anyone to deny its truth.
Nick Sullivan is a good narrator but his interpretation of the French-Cajun dialect does determent to the story.
It is with extreme effort that Burke centers Dave Robicheaux’s character on his concepts of good versus evil. We understand him best through his weaknesses. When he is wrong, he is driven to drink and not until he makes amends does his ability to resist his greater temptations find victory. Except for the perfect among us, this is a path of contrition we all could use in our daily lives.
I once thought I could write until I read James Lee Burke. It is a shame his work has not garnered more serious attention just because he is a mystery writer.
I love this series and this is the first one I have been annoyed by the narrator who fails to capture the richness of the language - both written and spoken. I am disappointed in the narration but never the author nor the story.
Dave, of course
Not for this author - but may be good for someone else
That is impossible - but as with all Burke books, love the story
I love James Lee Burke, his stories are great and the descriptions of his home territory paint beautiful pictures.
not finished yet, I'll keep listening, but I really considered skipping this one and going on to the next one in the series.
Will Patton or Mark Hammer were good, Nick Sullivan, I'm sure is a fine narrator, but he is not Dave Robicheaux, and the accent of the other characters was all wrong..more "island" than south Louisiana
tell ya later
I am a mystery lover that enjoys things a bit left of center.
A beautiful and grotesque love letter to South Louisiana. Burke never fails to lovingly embroil his readers in the seedy underbelly of cajun country.
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