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Clete: A Dave Robicheaux Novel


Clete: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

CLETE is James Lee Burke’s latest Dave Robicheaux novel, but there's a twist. While featuring everyone’s favorite detective from the Louisiana bayou, the book is centered on Dave’s longtime friend and partner in detective work, Clete Purcel. Clete went through rough times after making mistakes while on the job that cost him his role with the New Orleans Police Department and later found him incarcerated for being involved with the wrong people. Thanks to Dave, Clete has come out the other side and now spends his days as a private investigator.

Clete frequently takes his lavender pink 1959 Caddy Eldorado to Eddy’s Car Wash, which is located across the river from New Orleans in Algiers. Much to Clete’s surprise, he steps out of his house one afternoon to find three sketchy-looking individuals digging through his car in the driveway not long after he was at Eddy’s. They claim that a deposit may have been made in the vehicle while at the car wash. It is quite deadly and valuable, and they were sent to retrieve it.

"CLETE is everything you would want from a James Lee Burke novel --- the noir style, the atmosphere of the area as thick as the humidity of the nearby swamps, and characters so fully fleshed out that they jump off the page."

The men --- one of them heavily tattooed, one wearing an openly anti-Semitic t-shirt that reads “6 Million Are Not Enough,” and one a typical area waster --- indicate that they will be tearing apart Clete’s home if their search is unsuccessful. Clete does not like this and takes them on. He is holding his own until the tattooed guy nails him in the head with a crowbar. When Clete eventually awakens, he reaches out to his only true friend, Dave --- who is currently on disciplinary leave from his detective role for punching another cop in the men’s room --- and fills him in on his sordid encounter.

Clete brings Dave along to meet a new client of his at the strip club where she works. Gracie Lamar is quite the tough character but has been having her hands full with a frequent guest, who is known to Clete and Dave as "Sperm-O" Sellers. Now, in addition to this case, they need to get some answers from Eddy Durbin to find out why three thugs thought that something might have been placed in Clete’s car at his establishment. They don’t get many answers but can gather enough hearsay to recognize that Eddy’s is being used to distribute a powerful and expensive street drug called Leprechaun. Clete takes personal offense to this as his niece recently overdosed on fentanyl.

Everyone Clete and Dave speak with leads them to someone new. When they travel to Mississippi to talk to former Klan bigwig Hap Armstrong, he provides little except for the name of a major anti-Semite, Baylor Hemmings, and a group movement known as the New Rising. It turns out that each person they meet with ends up dead shortly thereafter in some horrific manner. They finally may get the answers they seek when a young wannabe actress, Clara Bow, wants to hire Clete to protect her from her soon-to-be ex-husband, Lauren, a big underground mob figure in the New Orleans area. He also has been known to associate with the dirtiest scoundrels and push deadly narcotics in his personal effort to burn the entire world to the ground.

Every plot twist here ends up looking like a one-step-forward, two-steps-back scenario for Clete as he and the people closest to him begin to pay the price as his investigation into Leprechaun gets closer to being uncovered. He spends so much time in the hospital as a result of different attacks upon himself that it almost becomes comical. Thank goodness he has Dave watching his back.

CLETE is everything you would want from a James Lee Burke novel --- the noir style, the atmosphere of the area as thick as the humidity of the nearby swamps, and characters so fully fleshed out that they jump off the page. I hope we get more time with Clete Purcel in the very near future.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 14, 2024

Clete: A Dave Robicheaux Novel
by James Lee Burke

  • Publication Date: June 11, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802163076
  • ISBN-13: 9780802163073