Listening to Will Patton narrate James Lee Burke’s latest Dave Robicheaux novel is nothing short of mesmerizing. It is difficult to believe that Burke can outdo himself, let alone any other noir novel author of this or the last century, but CREOLE BELLE will stand as a tour de force from a writer whose romance with the English language is capable of painting scenes of such conflicting conceptions of beauty and horror that the reader is transported to the realms of Burke’s deepest imagination. Patton’s flawless, gentlemanly Southern drawl and vocal portrayal of the multitude of characters Burke creates for the written page brings the story vividly to life in near cinematic splendor.
"Listening to Will Patton narrate James Lee Burke’s latest Dave Robicheaux novel is nothing short of mesmerizing. It is difficult to believe that Burke can outdo himself, let alone any other noir novel author of this or the last century, but CREOLE BELLE will stand as a tour de force..."
Detective Dave Robicheaux first appeared 25 years ago in NEON RAIN as a world-weary Louisiana detective and Vietnam survivor whose hardscrabble past led his private and professional lives down dark and dangerous pathways that would haunt him forever.
CREOLE BELLE finds Dave near death in a hospital bed, floating in morphine-induced dreams after he and his indestructible partner, Clete Purcell, have barely survived multiple gunshot wounds in a shootout. Dave rouses to see a night visitor, a favorite blues singer from his past named Tee Jolie Melton, sitting by his bed. She speaks little, but leaves him an iPod containing many of his favorite songs and, before vanishing, whispers a message that seems to refer to the drilling rigs that are beginning to leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
The iPod is real, but Dave does not know that Tee Jolie has been missing and presumed dead for many weeks. His friends and fellow law officers, even his wife, Molly, dismiss the incident as a hallucination. Dave insists that she is alive after he receives a late-night phone call, telling him that she is being held captive by a man who is capable of unconscionable cruelty. He is more determined than ever to find her, especially after the body of Tee Jolie’s young sister is found floating in a block of ice in the Gulf of Mexico.
CREOLE BELLE is as dark as a moonless night in a bayou swamp. The menace that lurks in that miasmic shroud is tangible and deadly, and threatens not only Dave and Clete, but also his wife Molly and daughter Alafair. Clete reluctantly discloses that he has an illegitimate daughter whom he has never met. He suspects that she may be the contract killer who carried out a hit on three low-level New Orleans bad guys. Clete, who follows his own rules of justice, and Dave, a sworn lawman, find their long friendship threatened.
Burke has plumbed the depths of Dave’s blistered and battered soul to bring us a classic novel of good versus evil of epic proportions. He creates three-dimensional characters who embody the worst and the best in humanity, often succeeding in making the most heinous criminal worthy of compassion, or at least understanding. He describes the breathtaking beauty and peace of a perfect setting by evoking the sounds and smells of time and place like no other writer. Then, in the very next sentence, your neck hairs rise as he conjures unspeakable peril as it creeps upon the unsuspecting victim.
Listening to Patton’s flawless interpretation of Burke’s words is an experience any fan of Burke’s, or Patton’s for that matter, should not miss. Patton is in great demand as a narrator of some of literature’s most famous contemporary authors. He has brought Jack Kerouac to life in ON THE ROAD, Hemingway in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, and many of Burke’s Robicheaux and Billy Bob Holland novels, among others in his 20-year career of narrating some of literature’s best-known novels. Patton now stars as Captain Weaver in the popular television show “Falling Skies.”
Reviewed by Roz Shea on July 20, 2012