four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
42-Sept-Oct-2009
user_rating: 
0

A-Rain GodsEdgar Award-winning James Lee Burke has written 28 novels, including the acclaimed Dave Robicheaux series. Rain Gods features Hackberry Holland, first introduced in Lay Down My Sword and Shield (1971) and cousin to Billy Bob Holland, who stars in his own series. Recently reviewed: Swan Peak ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2008), The Tin Roof Blowdown ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Nov/Dec 2007), and Crusader's Cross ( 4 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2005).

The Story: After Pete Flores, a troubled Iraq War veteran, anonymously alerts Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland-a taciturn 70-year-old tortured during the Korean War-to a shooting, the sheriff discovers the decomposing bodies of nine Thai women buried behind a church. Evidence suggests that these illegal aliens, drug mules and prostitutes trafficked from Mexico, died at the hands of New Orleans mobsters transplanted from Hurricane Katrina-and a crazy, evangelical hit man, Preacher Jack Collins. Soon, Pete and his girlfriend are on the run from the gangsters, Collins, and the FBI-and Holland must find the couple and outwit their pursuers before more die.
Simon & Schuster. 448 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9781439128244

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Most writers who churn out roughly a book a year show the stress every now and then. Not James Lee Burke. ... Rain God's terrific dialogue and filigreed plot are marred only by a mystical turn of events on the very last page." Tina Jordan

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"Burke is a deliberate storyteller; he doesn't skimp on the action, but his exploration of human foibles is deep, and his characters are true. ... Rain Gods is about catching the bad guys, but it's also a moving, melancholy examination of how we do wrong, then try our best to atone." Connie Ogle

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"If James Lee Burke has the deepest regional voice in the genre-and I do believe that's so-it's because he understands those feelings that keep people connected to the places where they have, or once had, roots. ... Crazy he may be, but Preacher is one of Burke's most inspired villains-violent and cruel, but also profoundly moralistic and self-loathing, qualities that he shares with Hackberry Holland, as he informs the guilt-haunted sheriff when they finally meet." Marilyn Stasio

Critical Summary

Critics have nothing but praise for Burke's latest Hackberry Holland novel. An author with a deep regional feel for parts of the United States-including Texas and Louisiana-Burke aptly portrays "a range war in Southwest Texas-a pitched battle between gangs of displaced bad guys, fighting among themselves for the new territory against the outmatched locals" (New York Times Book Review). He revisits themes of sin and redemption, but adds unusual layers of depth to his story with a keen exploration of human flaws and true characterizations. Preacher Jack intrigued critics to no end, while even minor characters were wholly compelling. Burke's fans will relish this fast-paced, tense, and harrowing addition to his oeuvre.