When James Lee Burke and Will Patton team up to breathe fire into the words of Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel, the listener is in for a spine-tingling ride that will have you hunting for a comfortable chair in a secluded corner so you can plug in your ear buds and shut out the rest of the world.
Burke’s dark tales of the soul-searching Cajun sheriff’s detective Robicheaux and his long-time sidekick and profoundly damaged PI and best friend, Clete Purcel, often draw these two men toward inexorable doom. Their headlong pursuit of justice and redemption in the protection of the innocent frequently launches them into the face of destruction, turning them into modern-day knights of the roundtable, or even gladiators. This proclivity for selfless risk is not lost on their daughters or Dave’s wife, Molly.
Alafair Robicheaux, a lawyer and budding novelist, joins Dave, Molly and Clete on vacation at a friend’s home in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. Gretchen Horowitz, Clete’s recently discovered daughter from CREOLE BELLE, is determined to make up for her violent past as a mob hired gun. She recently fulfilled her dream to become a filmmaker and arrives for a short stay with her father to film a documentary about oil shale drilling in the Pacific Northwest.
"Will Patton, arguably the best narrator in the business, mesmerizes the listener as he brings to life Burke’s unforgettable characters."
When Alafair is nicked by an arrow while hiking on a mountain trail, she angrily confronts the fleeing shooter but he escapes. When she reports that she thinks she recognizes him as convicted serial killer Asa Surrette, whom she once interviewed in a Kansas prison, local authorities and even her own father think she is imagining things. Surrette was purported to have died in a flaming accident while being transported to another prison.
After a young Indian girl, the adopted daughter of a billionaire oil magnate with a lavish home in the Bitterroot Valley, is viciously murdered, other young female victims start showing up. When further investigation shows that forensic evidence matches Surrette’s MO, Dave starts looking for reasons why, if Surrette is still alive, he would be stalking Alafair. With no jurisdiction in Montana, Dave's efforts are thwarted and the local law enforcement seems reluctant to pursue the killings, so he and Clete launch their own investigation.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD could be a straight-ahead, James Lee Burke/Dave Robicheaux noir suspense novel. This is not the case when the mysterious killer appears in different forms and seems capable of being in more than one place at a time. Instead, the story is reminiscent of Burke’s genre-bending sixth novel, IN THE ELECTRIC MIST WITH CONFEDERATE DEAD. There, as a filmmaker is re-enacting a Civil War battle, the ghosts of dead soldiers are awakened to haunt those who would disturb their eternal rest.
Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains are the final resting place of a peaceful group of Blackfeet Indians, mistakenly slaughtered by the US Cavalry during the infamous Marias River Massacre of 1870. When the veil is thin and spirits step through, are vulnerable humans receptive to pure evil? That is the question raised when doubt about the true identity of this new serial killer arises. Is there more than one person responsible? Is there a dark place inside any of us that can be reached if sufficiently provoked? Is it even possible that people we know, love and trust are capable of unconscionable acts?
Feeling the hairs rise on the back of your neck is an unfamiliar sensation in most of Burke’s books, but when unexplained shadows, indefinable footprints and biblical phrases appear on cave walls, you may feel inspired to pull your drapes and lock your doors. Will Patton, arguably the best narrator in the business, mesmerizes the listener as he brings to life Burke’s unforgettable characters.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on July 26, 2013