Crusader's Cross (Dave Robicheaux Series #14)

Crusader's Cross (Dave Robicheaux Series #14)

by James Lee Burke


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For Detective Dave Robicheaux, memories of a strange and violent summer from his youth are best left alone.

But a dying man’s confession forces Robicheaux to resurrect a decades-old mystery with a missing woman at its heart. Her name may or may not have been Ida Durbin, and Robicheaux’s half-brother, Jimmie, paid a brutal price for entering her world. Now the truth will plunge Robicheaux into the manipulations of New Orleans’ wealthiest family, into a complex love affair of his own, and into hot pursuit of a killer expanding his territory beyond the Big Easy at a frightening pace.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501198137
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 01/30/2018
Series: Dave Robicheaux Series , #14
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 79,253
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

James Lee Burke is a New York Times bestselling author, two-time winner of the Edgar Award, and the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts in Fiction. He’s authored thirty-seven novels and two short story collections. He lives in Missoula, Montana.


New Iberia, Louisiana and Missoula, Montana

Date of Birth:

December 5, 1936

Place of Birth:

Houston, Texas


B.A., University of Missouri, 1959; M.A., University of Missouri, 1960

Read an Excerpt

Crusader’s Cross 1
IT WAS THE END OF AN ERA, one that I suspect historians may look upon as the last decade of American innocence. It was a time we remember in terms of images and sounds rather than historical events—pink Cadillacs, drive-in movies, stylized street hoods, rock ’n’ roll, Hank and Lefty on the jukebox, the dirty bop, daylight baseball, chopped-down ’32 Fords with Merc engines drag-racing in a roar of thunder past drive-in restaurants, all of it backdropped by palm trees, a curling surf, and a purple sky that had obviously been created as a cinematic tribute to our youth.

The season seemed eternal, not subject to the laws of mutability. At best, it was improbable that the spring of our graduation year would ever be stained by the tannic smell of winter. If we experienced visions of mortality, we needed only to look into one another’s faces to reassure ourselves that none of us would ever die, that rumors of distant wars had nothing to do with our own lives.

My half brother was Jimmie Robicheaux. He was a hothead, an idealist, and a ferocious fist-fighter in a beer-glass brawl, but often vulnerable and badly used by those who knew how to take advantage of his basic goodness. In 1958, he and I worked ten days on and five days off for what was called a doodlebug outfit, or seismograph crew, laying out rubber cable and seismic jugs in bays and swamps all along the Louisiana-Texas coastline. During the off-hitch, when we were back on land, we hung out at Galveston Island, fishing at night on the jetties, swimming in the morning, eating fried shrimp in a café on the amusement pier where the seagulls fluttered and squeaked just outside the open windows.

The Fourth of July that year was a peculiar day. The barometer dropped and the sky turned a chemical green, and the breakers were full of sand and dead baitfish when they smacked on the beach. The swells were smooth-surfaced and rain-dented between the waves, but down below, the undertow was terrific, almost like steel cable around the thighs, the sand rushing out from under our feet as the waves sucked back upon themselves.

Most swimmers got out of the water. Perhaps because of our youth or the fact Jimmie and I had drunk too much beer, we swam far out from the beach, to the third sandbar, the last one that provided a barrier between the island itself and the precipitous descent off the edge of the continental shelf. But the sandbar was hard-packed, the crest only two feet below the surface, which allowed the swimmer to sit safely above the tidal current and enjoy a panoramic view of both the southern horizon and the lights that were going on all over the island.

The sun broke through the thunderheads in the west, just above the earth’s rim, like liquid fire pooled up inside the clouds. For the first time that day we could see our shadows on the water’s surface. Then we realized we were not alone.

Thirty yards out a shark fin, steel-gray, triangular in shape, cut across the swell, then disappeared under a wave. Jimmie and I stood up on the sandbar, our hearts beating, and waited for the fin to resurface. Behind us we could hear the crackle of lightning in the clouds.

“It’s probably a sand shark,” Jimmie said.

But we both knew that most sand sharks were small, yellowish in hue, and didn’t cruise at sunset on the outer shelf. We stared at the water for a long time, then saw a school of baitfish scatter in panic across the surface. The baitfish seemed to sink like silver coins into the depths, then the swell became smooth-surfaced and dark green again, wrinkling slightly when the wind gusted. I could hear Jimmie breathing as though he had labored up a hill.

“You want to swim for it?” I asked.

“They think people are sea turtles. They look up and see a silhouette and see our arms and legs splashing around and think we’re turtles,” he said.

It wasn’t cold, but his skin looked hard and prickled in the wind.

“Let’s wait him out,” I said.

I saw Jimmie take a deep breath and his mouth form a cone, as though a sliver of dry ice were evaporating on his tongue. Then his face turned gray and his eyes looked into mine.

“What?” I said.

Jimmie pointed southward, at two o’clock from where we stood. A fin, larger than the first one, sliced diagonally across a swell and cut through a cresting wave. Then we saw the shark’s back break the surface, a skein of water sliding off skin that was the color of scorched pewter.

There was nothing for it. The sun was setting, like a molten planet descending into its own smoke. In a half hour the tide would be coming in, lifting us off the sandbar, giving us no option except to swim for the beach, our bodies in stark silhouette against the evening sky.

We could hear music and the popping of fireworks on the amusement pier and see rockets and star shells exploding above the line of old U.S. Army officers’ quarters along the beachfront. A wave slid across my chest, and inside it I saw the pinkish blue air sac and long tendril-like stingers of a Portuguese man-of-war. It drifted away, then another one, and another fell out of a wave and twisted in an eddy like half-inflated balloons.

It was going to be a long haul to the beach.

“There’s sharks in the water! Didn’t you fellers see the lifeguard’s flag?” a voice called.

I didn’t know where the girl had come from. She sat astride an inner tube that was roped to two others, a short wood paddle in her hands. She wore a one-piece black swimsuit and had sandy reddish hair, and her shoulders glowed with sunburn. Behind her, in the distance, I could see the tip of a rock jetty that jutted far out into the breakers.

She paddled her makeshift raft until it had floated directly above the sandbar and we could wade to it.

“Where did you come from?” Jimmie said.

“Who cares? Better jump on. Those jellyfish can sting the daylights out of you,” she said.

She was tall and slight of build and not much older than we were, her accent hard-core East Texas. A wave broke against my back, pushing me off balance. “Are you fellers deaf? Y’all sure don’t act like you care somebody is trying to hep you out of the big mess you got yourself into,” she said.

“We’re coming!” Jimmie said, and climbed onto one of the inner tubes.

Waves knocked us over twice and it took us almost a half hour to cross the trough between the third and second sandbars. I thought I saw a fin break the surface and slide across the sun’s afterglow, and, once, a hard-bodied object bumped against my leg, like a dull-witted bully pushing past you on a crowded bus. But after we floated past the second sandbar, we entered another environment, one connected to predictability where we could touch bottom with the ends of our toes and smell smoke from meat fires and hear children playing tag in the darkness.

We told ourselves a seascape that could contain predators and the visitation of arbitrary violence upon the unsuspecting no longer held any sway in our lives. As we emerged from the surf the wind was as sweet as a woman’s kiss against the skin.

The girl said her name was Ida Durbin and she had seen us through binoculars from the jetty and paddled after us because a shark had already attacked a child farther up the beach. “You’d do that for anybody?” Jimmie said.

“There’s always some folks who need looking after, at least those who haven’t figured out sharks live in deep water,” she said.

Jimmie and I owned a 1946 canary-yellow Ford convertible, with whitewall tires and twin Hollywood mufflers. We drove Ida back to the jetty, where she retrieved her beach bag and used a cabana to change into a sundress and sandals. Then we went to a beer garden that also sold watermelon and fried shrimp. The palm trees in the garden were strung with tiny white lights, and we sat under the palms and ate shrimp and watched the fireworks explode over the water.

“Are y’all twins?” she asked.

“I’m eighteen months older,” I said.

She looked at both of us. “Y’all sure favor for brothers who aren’t twins. Maybe your mama just liked the way y’all looked and decided she’d use just one face,” she said. She smiled at her own joke, then looked away and studied the tops of her hands when Jimmie’s eyes tried to hold hers.

“Where you live, Ida?” he asked.

“Over yonder,” she said, nodding vaguely up the main drag.

“You work here in Galveston?” he said.

“For a little while, I am. I got to go now,” she replied.

“We’ll drive you,” he said.

“I’ll take a cab. I do it all the time. It’s only fifty cents,” she said.

Jimmie started to protest. But she got up and brushed crumbs of fried shrimp off her dress. “You boys don’t get in no more trouble,” she said.

“Boys?” Jimmie said, after she was gone.

GALVESTON ISLAND was a strange place back in those days. The town was blue-collar, the beaches segregated, the Jax brewery its most prominent industry, the old Victorian homes salt-bitten and peeling. It was a vacation spot for the poor and the marginal and a cultural enclave where the hard-shell Baptist traditions of Texas had little application. Every beer joint on the beach featured slot and racehorse machines. For more serious gamblers, usually oil people from Houston, there were supper clubs that offered blackjack, craps, and roulette. One Sicilian family ran it all. Several of their minions moved out to Vegas in ’47 with Benjamin Siegel. One of them, in fact, built the Sands.

But nonetheless there was an air of both trust and innocence about the island. The roller coaster in the amusement park had been officially condemned by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the notice of condemnation nailed on a post hard by the ticket booth. But every night during the summer, vacationers packed the open cars that plummeted down warped tracks and around wooden turns whose spars and rusted bolts vibrated like a junkyard.

Churchgoing families filled the bingo parlors and ate boiled crabs that sometimes had black oil inside the shells. At daybreak, huge garbage scows sailed southward for the horizon, gulls creaking overhead, to dump tons of untreated waste that somehow, in the mind’s eye, were refined into inert molecules of harmless matter.

But inland from the carnival rides, the fishing jetties, and the beachfront beer joints and seafood restaurants, there was another Galveston, and another industry, that made no pretense to innocence.

During the next two days we didn’t see Ida Durbin on the main drag or on the amusement pier or on any of the jetties, and we had no idea where she lived, either. Then, on Saturday morning, while we were in a barbershop a block from the beach, we saw her walk past the window, wearing a floppy straw hat and a print dress, with a lavender Mexican frill around the hem, a drawstring bag slung from her shoulder.

Jimmie was out the door like a shot.

She told him she had to buy a money order for her grandmother in Northeast Texas, that she had to pick up her mail at the post office, that she had to buy sunburn lotion for her back, that she was tied up all day and evening.

“Tomorrow is Sunday. Everything is closed. What are you doing then?” he said, grinning.

She looked quizzically at nothing, her mouth squeezed into a button. “I reckon I could fix some sandwiches and meet y’all at the amusement pier,” she said.

“We’ll pick you up,” he said.

“No, you won’t,” she replied.

The next day we discovered that a picnic with Ida Durbin meant Vienna sausage sandwiches, sliced carrots, a jar of sun tea, and three Milky Way bars.

“Some folks don’t like Viennas,” she said, and she pronounced the word “Vy-ennas.” “But with lettuce and mayonnaise, I think they’re real good.”

“Yeah, these are a treat. Aren’t they, Dave?” Jimmie said.

“You bet,” I said, trying to wash down a piece of simulated sausage that was like a chunk of rubber.

We were on the amusement pier, sitting on a wood bench in the shade of a huge outdoor movie screen. In the background I could hear pinball machines and popping sounds from a shooting gallery. Ida wore a pink skirt and a white blouse with lace on the collar; her arms and the top of her chest were powdered with strawberry freckles.

“Dave and I go back on the quarter boat in the morning,” Jimmie said.

She chewed on the end of a carrot stick, her eyes staring blankly at the beach and the surf sliding up on the sand.

“We’ll be back on land in ten days,” Jimmie said.

“That’s good. Maybe I’ll see y’all again,” she said.

But if there was any conviction in her voice, I did not hear it. Down below, a huge wave crashed against the pilings, shuddering the planks under our feet.

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Crusader's Cross (Dave Robicheaux Series #14) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why are the nook books so expensive? I see the paperback are $1.99. I have read ten of his books and like him very much but will not pay $7.99 for his nook books. They are old releases anyway
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1958, half brothers Jimmy and Dave Robicheaux work as doodlebugs putting down cable along the Texas-Louisiana shoreline. During an off day on Galveston Island, the siblings became stranded on a sandbar with a shark swimming nearby. Ida Durbin paddles out and rescues the guys, but refuses to provide any personnel information although Jimmy is attracted to her. When he learns she is a prostitute, he tries to take her away with him. When her pimp, Lou Kale intercedes, Jimmy overcomes him; however, Ida fails to meet him at the rendezvous point and the brothers never learn what happened to her. --- The mystery is solved decades later when Troy Bordelon, lying in a hospital on life support after being stabbed several times during a brawl, tells Dave that he saw his uncle take Ida away with him. Dave was planning to ignore the clue until two redneck deputy sheriffs display interest in his meeting with Troy so he investigates not realizing that the New Orleans mob, a local sheriff¿s department, and the Chalons family want him stopped. --- The latest Robicheaux thriller is the usual intense gritty tale starring an individual who at times seems he took one punch too many from George Foreman, but finds the inner strength to try to do what he feels is right. The story line starts with an intriguing look back to Dave¿s pre Nam days while providing the foundation for the latter day mystery; a clever technique that showcases James Lee Burke¿s abilities to tell a coherent story. In both eras, readers obtain a close look at Dave and to a lesser degree Jimmy as Mr. Burke is in top form with this powerful suspense thriller.--- Harriet Klausner
jepeters333 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dave Robicheaux investigates the "death" of a woman from 30 years ago; the investigation upsets a couple local sheriffs and Valentine Chalons; and there are ties with the New Orleans underworld.
RoseCityReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
James Lee Burke is one of the best, but I think his more recent books just rehash the plots of some of the other ones. Crusader's Cross felt like I had read it all before: Dave Robicheaux acts holier than thou, Clete Purcell beats someone up, a shoot out in a hunting cabin on stilts, colorful mob characters, a drunk/insane lady hits on Dave, a serial killer, Dave's wife is kidnapped, the three-legged dog . . . . It's like all the components are on the computer and a program rearranges them, picks new names, and prints it out. Maybe Roald Dahl was right -- these books are all written by the Great Automatic Grammatizator!
erniepratt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rated: R
This book unfolds in one of my favorite places in the United States. Life is different down in Acadiana. This book illustrates the color of life that exists there.
jenforbus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the fourteenth Dave Robicheaux novel, a face from the past that has haunted Dave since he was 20 re-emerges. Dave and his brother Jimmie had long since thought Ida Durbin was dead. But when some odd events start occurring, Ida's death becomes more and more suspect, and all signs lead back to the wealthy Chalons family.Meanwhile, someone is on the loose killing women in Baton Rouge. The Baton Rouge serial killer hits close to home when he kills a young woman Dave interviewed and then dumps one of his victims in New Iberia Perish.Dave, Clete, Helen, and Molly, Dave's new love interest, all find themselves wrapped up in murder and mayhem as Dave tries to unravel all the mysteries.Once again, James Lee Burke has created a poetic masterpiece. While Crusader's Cross probably doesn't rank among my favorite Robicheaux novels, it's still among the elite in the world of crime fiction. Burke is known for his exquisite setting development and how accurately it reflects the Louisiana Bayou. His development also mimics the slow, easy pace of the Deep South. Crusader's Cross stays true to this form.Valentine Chalons is a repulsive antagonist coming from an extremely dysfunctional, wealthy, southern family. Lou Cale/Coin is equally repulsive. Yet, I still feel sorry for them when Dave "loses it" and sinks to their levels. Dave Robicheaux is one of the most unique characters in crime fiction in the sense that you don't always cheer him on. He has such realistic human qualities, and those qualities include a side that isn't always lovable or endearing. Robicheaux is constantly battling evil and sometimes that evil just drags him right down with it. Helen does her best to keep Dave out of the slime, but sometimes even that isn't enough. In Crusader's Cross, Helen gives Dave his shield back only to have to park him on desk duty almost immediately afterward.Clete is Clete. There is no comparison to Clete, a walking contradiction. He's as devoted a friend as any fictional character will find, but as usual the lengths he'll go to prove that devotion are often frightening.Dave is on wife number four with Molly. I worry for her safety. His previous wives haven't had such a good go of things! But, Molly fits Dave's type. She's a rebel; she's down-to-earth; and she's a scrapper.The dynamics of the characters as well as the relationships between them is pure gold and pure Burke. I listened to this book on audio, and I'm afraid it's going to be my last Dave Robicheaux audio book. Will Patton was the reader, and while I truly enjoy Patton's work in films, I did not enjoy his reading of Dave Robicheaux. I know the major factor is because I've mentally established Mark Hammer's voice as Dave Robicheaux's voice. However, I do have some particular details in addition to my preference for Hammer. Patton was very dramatic, and this novel is told from the perspective of Robicheaux who would never, in my interpretation, be dramatic. And he certainly wouldn't have a breathlessly dramatic sound. Even though Burke's descriptions are often breath-taking for the reader, it's common place for Dave; he lives in it every day. In addition, the man who corrects his adopted daughter on her speech would not say "da" in place of "the" or use a hard "t" sound on a th consonant blend. As with all Dave Robicheaux novels, there were many French-derived names present. Patton didn't seem to pronounce them as fluidly as Hammer always did. The accents, the stresses, the pronunciations just flowed in Hammer's readings and Patton has a more jerky style when he stresses certain syllables in those French pronunciations. It sounds almost like he's having difficulty pronouncing them.Then there's the role of Clete Purcell. Never in a million years would I have imagined Clete to sound the way Patton read his role. There simply are not words. However, I do believe he missed a significant amount of the sarcasm that is essential to Clete's character. I didn't laugh anywhere near as much with
wildbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one or the more recent Dave Robicheaux stories. The more I read him the more I like him. Now I look forward to the author's descriptions of the surroundings. I have seen a Florida swamp and some of the plants he describes. He also makes New Iberia a place with his descriptions of the buildings and their stories.This involves a serial killer and a story out of Dave's past (there are a lot of those). The ending was tied up very neatly answering all of the questions in the book. That is not typical for Robicheaux.My favorite line in the book is "Our moral failure lies in the frailty of our vision and not in our hearts". For me a big part of the Robicheaux books is watching Dave walk the tightrope of life seeking his guidance from an inner moral compass that is not always pointing true north. In other words he is trying but he is human.I think that along with the surroundings is what makes these books better than just a whodunit. I have about five others in the series and I look forward to reading another one soon.
Darrol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another good installment with Dave, although the ending was a little predictable. Good stuff about alcoholism. Dave (Burke?) tends to express the false alternative that degenerate individuals have either a sociological or theological source, when criminal personalities stem from the potentialities of our civilization and our species.
raaurora on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. I have been trying to find some new authors in this genre and Amazon suggested Burke so I gave him a try. He is so caught up in the excruciating detail of describing eucalyptus trees, meandering nonsensical diatribe, and pretentiously inserting the word 'antebellum' at every turn he never actually gets around to telling a legitimate story. There is supposedly a serial killer on the loose and also a 40 year old who-cares cold case murder being solved, but you wouldn't know it for all the distractions.This book is too long on mind numbing filler and way too short on plot development. Skip it.
disenchanted on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Okay, normally I wouldn't give a James Lee Burke mystery the top rating. Sure, they are enjoyable as brain candy, but really they are not high literature. This book, however, had me giggling from start to finish because (1) I used to live in Louisiana and (2) I know the group that he is (loosely) using as a basis for the self-help agency. I only wish that I had bought this earlier and in hardback.
JBreedlove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first DL Burke novel/Dave Robicheaux story. Well written and readable. Very descriptive on the world of southern Louisiana where I worked for 3 months once upon a time. Distinct enough from other detective creations but not over the top. I'll certainly read another.
andyray on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the easiest (in terms of flow) novel i mhave read of JLB to date, yet involves itself as deeply in that imagry and intriging portraiture that paints the reader's involvement in rural lousiana. It is a one sitting novel, which can b e done by me only if I do nother else and do not have to abide my health and conditions. clete and david find the proper relationship with each other here, and molly becomes dave's third wife. he does seem to pick storng women that can live with his dementia.
EssFair on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another complex entry by Burke this novel follows Robicheaux as he works to solve at least three mysteries that become entangled. Strand one¿find the serial killer torturing and murdering women; strand two find out if a girt Dave and his brother met decades earlier is still alive, and find out why Val Chalons¿son of old Louisiana wealth is after Dave. Dave has his usual bout with depression, alcoholism, and violence, his buddy Clete helps out, and Dave manages to fall in love and get married for a fourth time.
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Dark noir mystery spread out over the years. Takes a while to get into but once you do, you're hooked.
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KumaFL More than 1 year ago
An aging cast of characters. Since Robicheaux represents my age group I am fascinated with how the author keeps him relevant.
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KenCady More than 1 year ago
As a fan of James Lee Burke's writing, I find that I can be dazzled by it sufficiently to ignore some spots that might otherwise annoy me. For instance , I never quite understood how Dave Robichaux's fingerprints were all over a murder scene- one that we are sure he didn't commit. Yes, I know he was in a drunken fog at the time, but it doesn't make me think it answers the question. There are several of these moments where I felt things were a little foggy. But I liked the story. The Baton Rouge serial killer might not have, since he seems to have been merely a plot device.