PAST MEETS PRESENT IN THE LOUISIANA SWAMPS
The image of the dead girl's body lingered in detective Dave Robicheaux's mind as he drove home. After seeing the young victim's corpse, the last thing he needed to come across was a drunk driver. But when he saw the Cadillac fishtail across the road, Robicheaux knew the driver was in trouble. What Dave didn't realize, was that by pulling the car over, he was opening his murder case wider than he could ever imagine.
The driver, Elrod Sykes, in New Iberia to star in a movie, leads Dave to the skeletal remains of a black man that had washed up in the Atchafalaya swamp. So begins a mystery that takes Dave back to an unsolved murder -- a murder that he witnessed in 1957. Haunted by the past as he confronts the gruesome present - day rape and murder of young prostitutes, Robicheaux must also contend with a new partner from the F.B.I., and the local criminal gentry. But for Dave, the answers he seeks lie somewhere in the bayou mist with the ghosts of soldiers long since forgotten...
A masterwork of detective fiction, In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead is James Lee Burke's most suspenseful work to date.
About the Author
James Lee Burke is the New York Times bestselling, Edgar Award-winning author of twenty-four novels, including eighteen starring the Cajun detective Dave Robicheaux. Burke grew up on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, where he now lives with his wife Pearl. They also spend several months a year in Montana.
Hometown:New Iberia, Louisiana and Missoula, Montana
Date of Birth:December 5, 1936
Place of Birth:Houston, Texas
Education:B.A., University of Missouri, 1959; M.A., University of Missouri, 1960
Read an Excerpt
The sky had gone black at sunset, and the storm had churned inland from the Gulf and drenched New Iberia and littered East Main with leaves and tree branches from the long canopy of oaks that covered the street from the old brick post office to the drawbridge over Bayou Teche at the edge of town. The air was cool now, laced with light rain, heavy with the fecund smell of wet humus, night-blooming jasmine, roses, and new bamboo. I was about to stop my truck at Del's and pick up three crawfish dinners to go when a lavender Cadillac fishtailed out of a side street, caromed off a curb, bounced a hubcap up on a sidewalk, and left long serpentine lines of tire prints through the glazed pools of yellow light from the street lamps.
I was off duty, fired, used up after a day of searching for a nineteen-year-old girl in the woods, then finding her where she had been left in the bottom of a coulee, her month and wrists wrapped with electrician's tape. Already I had tried to stop thinking about the rest of it. The medical examiner was a kind man. He bagged the body before any news people or family members got there.
I don't like to bust drunk drivers. I don't like to listen to their explanations, watch their pitiful attempts to affect sobriety, or see the sheen of fear break out in their eyes when they realize they're headed for the drunk tank with little to look forward to in the morning except the appearance of their names in the newspaper. Or maybe in truth I just don't like to see myself when I look into their faces.
But I didn't believe this particular driver could make it another block without ripping the side off a parked car orplowing the Cadillac deep into someone's shrubbery. I plugged my portable bubble into the cigarette lighter, clamped the magnets on the truck's roof, and pulled him to the curb in front of the Shadows, a huge brick, whitecolumned antebellum home built on Bayou Teche in 1831.
I had my Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department badge opened in my palm when I walked up to his window.
"Can I see your driver's license, please?"
He had rugged good looks, a Roman profile, square shoulders, and broad hands. When he smiled I saw that his teeth were capped. 'Me woman next to him wore her hair in blond ringlets and her body was as lithe, tanned, and supplelooking as an Olympic swimmer's. Her mouth looked as red and vulnerable as a rose. She also looked like she was seasick.
',You want driver's what?" he said, trying to focus evenly on my face. Inside the car I could smell a drowsy, warm odor, like the smell of smoke risking from a smoldering pile of wet leaves.
"Your driver's license," I repeated. "Please take it out of your billfold and hand it to me."
"Oh, yeah, sure, wow," he said. "I was really careless back there. I'm sorry about that. I really am."
He got his license out of his wallet, dropped it in his lap, found it again, then handed it to me, trying to keep his eyes from drifting off my face. His breath smelled like fermented fruit that had been corked up for a long time in a stone jug.
I looked at the license under the street lamp.
"You're Elrod T. Sykes?" I asked.
"Yes, sir, that's who I am."
"Would you step out of the car, Mr. Sykes?"
"Yes, sir, anything you say."
He was perhaps forty, but in good shape. He wore a light-blue golf shirt, loafers, and gray slacks that hung loosely on his flat stomach and narrow hips. He swayed slightly and propped one hand on the door to steady himself.
"We have a problem here, Mr. Sykes. I think you've been smoking marijuana in your automobile."
"Marijuana ... Boy, that'd be bad, wouldn't it?"
"I think your lady friend just ate the roach, too."
"That wouldn't be good, no, sir, not at all." He shook hi: head profoundly.
"Well, we're going to let the reefer business slide to now. But I'm afraid you're under arrest for driving while intoxicated."
"That's very bad news. This definitely was not on my agenda this evening," He widened his eyes and opened and closed his mouth as though he were trying to clear an obstruction in his ear canals. "Say, do you recognize me? What I mean is, there're news people who'd really like to put my ham hocks in the frying pan. Believe me, sir, I don't need this. I cain't say that enough."
"I'm going to drive you just down the street to the city jail, Mr. Sykes. Then I'll send a car to take Ms. Drummond to wherever she's staying. But your Cadillac will be towed to the pound."
He let out his breath ni a long sigh. I turned my face away.
"You go to the movies, huh?" he said.
"Yeah, I always enjoyed your films. Ms. Drummond's, too. Take your car keys out of the ignition, please."
"Yeah, sure," he said, despondently.
He leaned into the window and pulled the keys out of the ignition.
"El, do something," the woman said,
He straightened his back and looked at me.
"I feel real bad about this," he said. "Can I make a contribution to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or something like that?"
In the lights from the city park, I could see the rain denting the surface of Bayou Teche.
"Mr. Sykes, you're under arrest. You can remain silent if you wish, or if you wish to speak, anything you say can be used against you," I said. "As a long-time fan...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was the first novel I read by this author using this character. Since then I have read everything I can get my hands on. I love the setting of New Orleans. James Burke really bring out the angst of the character his battle with alcholism his relationship with those around him. I found the character to be a lonely man always fighting his demons as he trys to solve the latest mystery that seems to fall on his doorstep. All in All I highly recommend any of James Burke novels
I really liked The Neon Rain, the first Robicheaux novel, but this one, with its supernatural element, did not quite work for me. Burke is clearly doing something ambitious and historically relevant to the modern south in this novel, but I could not suspend disbelief enough. And I'm into supernatural stuff.
Another good Robicheaux novel. The ending was rushed but the build up was a page turner. Some Stephen King-esque ghosts of Confederate solders haunt Dave Robicheaux in his dreams as he attempts to two some gruesome murders and deal with the New Orleans mob.
I did enjoy this book very much - the bayou environment is not something I am familiar with, so it lends an air of fantastic genre to the novel. What's more, the virtual presence of a Confederate ghost does remind me of the short fictions of Ambrose Bierce (there usually are some uncanny elements in a damaged post-civil war environment). The characters are brought to the foreground, they are outlined against a quiet, Louisiana, background, and they seem more alive than what it would be for normal characters, as if they were the ones that mattered, not the plot. In any case, this book is a very good one, and I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to read about bayous and villains, or to have a taste of Ambrose Bierce's fantastic atmosphere.
This is number 6 in the Dave Robicheaux series and is a very good mystery thriller. The Confederacy and the supernatural are more prominent in this book than in any others I have read by James Lee Burke. General John Bell Hood, or his ghost, makes multiple appearances in the story. One point of historical accuracy. Hood started the Civil War as the leader of the Texas brigade which was infantry not cavalry as stated in the book. That aside.The book begins with the brutal murder of a beautiful young prostitute who it is revealed later had connections with one of the primary villains Julie (Baby Feet) Balboni. In Robicheaux's youth Feet was the catcher on the high school baseball team where Robicheaux was a pitcher. The interaction between Balboni and Robicheaux is one of the main story lines of the book. Balboni has moved back to New Iberia where a movie he is backing is being made. Balboni is a prime suspect for the murder along with Michael Ducee who provides security for the movie. Ducee is also a suspect for a murder Robicheaux witnessed at 19 of a black man who was in chains.The sheriff calls for the FBI who shows up in the person of a Rosie Gomez who becomes Robicheaux's strong ally. There is an incident from Rosie's past that becomes a prominent part of the story. Then another murder occurs matching the pattern of the first and now the search is on for a serial killer.Burke keeps the action moving and Robicheaux provides the narration. It is Robicheaux's inner dialogue that separates this series from a straight forward who done it. The last 75 pages turn very quickly as the stakes are raised with the kidnapping of Alafair, Robicheax's adopted daughter.I enjoyed the book but it does not show the depth of The Tin Roof Blowdown, the most recent book in the series. Except for Rosie the female characters, especially Robicheaux's wife Bootsie, are very shallow. It shows that Burke is a good author who has improved his craft as he goes along.
This was given to me by a friend and i said to myself: "sure. like i will find someone who writes as good and as sucks me in as well as JDM. Well, this guy Burke does it, at least with the Devereux character. Maybe it's because my blood is french and indian, and i speak french, and I love the cajun music and cooking, and of the four kinds of terrain, i like the swamp the best, but no, it's more than that. i shall read more of his work.