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Another Kind of Eden


Another Kind of Eden

In ANOTHER KIND OF EDEN, James Lee Burke takes a further step in exploring the tenuous border between the physical and mystic. He has visited various aspects of this topic on a number of occasions in his long-running and iconic Dave Robicheaux series, most recently in A PRIVATE CATHEDRAL. His latest, which adds yet another chapter to his Holland family opus, takes place in Colorado in the early 1960s. It is a snapshot of the beginning of the drug-fueled counterculture movement with a nod toward the individuals who practiced the lifestyle as well as those who preyed upon them.

"ANOTHER KIND OF EDEN features some of Burke’s best prose --- the man’s wordcraft, even at this late date, is awe-inspiring --- and his characters are unforgettable."

ANOTHER KIND OF EDEN is narrated by Aaron Holland Broussard, an aspiring but frustrated author who finds more satisfaction traveling by boxcar and working as an itinerant farmhand than laboring within the confines of the ivory towers of academia. What begins as an ordinary meal in a diner near the farm where Aaron is employed ends in violence when he and his dinner companions, both of whom work with him, are attacked by a group of locals that includes Darrel Vickers, the son of wealthy landowner Rueben Vickers.

What makes the night even more memorable for Aaron is that he meets Joanne McDuffy, a waitress who seems to have come from another time and place. He is almost immediately smitten with the woman, who is an art student at a local college and, regrettably, involved in some manner with her professor, Henri Devos, who appears to have a Svengali-like effect over her. A busload of vagabonds, seemingly summoned by Devos, take up a residency of sorts on Joanne’s property. Aaron works by day, and by night he attempts to assist Joanne in extracting herself from the situation while fending off the Vickers family. There is also some criminal activity in the vicinity that cannot be ignored.

Wade Benbow, a local police detective, attempts to recruit Aaron into the investigation, even as his attention is diverted elsewhere. The area, though, is shot through with the spirits from a tragedy of a bygone era. It is not long before various elements, which by turns work with and against each other, collide in a cataclysmic event that changes everything for Aaron and those around him, for better and for worse.

I was initially disappointed in the book’s conclusion because it seemed somewhat abrupt and incomplete. But on reflection, the story set forth in this volume is not one that lends itself to neat endings or easy answers. It is all the more lifelike or real-world because of it, bittersweet but still full of hope as always. ANOTHER KIND OF EDEN features some of Burke’s best prose --- the man’s wordcraft, even at this late date, is awe-inspiring --- and his characters are unforgettable. You will want to put this book at the very top of your must-read list if you haven’t already.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 20, 2021

Another Kind of Eden
by James Lee Burke