JAMES LEE BURKE – Burning Angel. Dave Robicheaux #8. Hyperion, hardcover, 1995. Hachette Books, paperback, 1996.

   Well, Burke’s one of the big-timers in terms of sales. He’s also ne of the best pure prose stylists around regardless of genre, and he’s created some great characters in Dave Robicheaux his family, and Cletus So what’s not to like? Well, occasionally in the past he’s had a few plot problems …

   There was a small-time grifter named Sonny Boy in New Orleans who ran afoul of the big-timers and went away. Then years later he came back, and passed a black notebook to Dave. After that, people started dying in bloody ways. Mysterious folks wanted to kill Sonny Boy, and they wanted his little black book, and Dave didn’t understand any of it, That didn’t keep more people from dying, though.

   The thing about Burke is that he can write. That’s not a given with bestselling authors, but if you’ve never read him before you know a very few pages into your first one that you’ve picked a winner for people and prose. He is just a very, very good stylist.

   He’s also someone who seems to care less and less about plot and a coherent story, and who is more and more inclined toward angst, deep thoughts, and the quasi-supernatural, and who is beginning almost to parody himself. This is all about sin, redemption and all sorts of other stuff; truth to tell, I’m not sure what all Burke was trying to tell me. I am sure it didn’t make much sense, and that I finished it with a feeling of dissatisfaction. But he sure can write.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #21, August-September 1995