three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
36-Sept-Oct-2008
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
0

A-Swan PeakDave Robicheaux leaves his sizzling native New Orleans for the rugged West in this 17th installment of the beloved Dave Robicheaux series.

The Story: Sheriff’s deputy Dave Robicheaux, his wife Molly, and longtime friend Clete Purcel are spending the summer on a horse ranch in the mountains of western Montana. While fishing, Clete inadvertently trespasses onto the property of neighboring rancher and shady oil millionaire Ridley Wellstone and stirs up trouble with Wellstone’s hired thugs. Soon, a mysterious stranger drifts into town with a sadistic Texas prison guard hot on his trail, two teenagers turn up dead, and Dave and Clete find themselves in a tight spot with environmentalists, a corrupt televangelist, and the FBI. All of these events seem somehow to connect to the mysterious death of mobster Sally Dio several years before.
Simon & Schuster. 416 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 1416548521

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Swan Peak, the 17th installment in the Robicheaux series and Burke’s 29th book since Half of Paradise in 1965, is another triumph for the two-time Edgar Award winner. … Sin, redemption and dealing with inner demons, staple themes in every Burke novel, confront [the main characters] and will, undoubtedly, consume them for the foreseeable future." Nicholas A. Basbanes

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Swan Peak is a sprawling, exuberant thriller told, as always, in the lush voice of Robicheaux. The violence is gruesome, but the energy is bright-hearted." Katherine Dunn

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"The bottom line is that if you love crime fiction, or if you love story-telling, or if you just plain love good writing, Swan Peak will more than satisfy on all accounts. I don’t think there’s a more lyrical writer of crime fiction than James Lee Burke working today." Jeff Bredenberg

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"[Burke’s] characterizations and whip-sharp dialogue are incomparable. … There have been a number of Dave Robicheaux novels, and though all are top-notch, Burke’s sense of morality is strong and sometimes repetitive." Peter Mergendahl

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Burke makes a bold move in Swan Peak: sending Clete and Dave to Montana for the 17th Robicheaux novel. … But it works. … As always, Burke is an absolute master of bringing a setting to life." Colette Bancroft

Miami Herald 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Swan Peak arrives on the heels of what may be Burke’s best novel, the post-Katrina elegy Tin Roof Blowdown, and while it doesn’t quite measure up to that book’s haunting resonance, it’s still a hell of a ride. … Overall, Burke provides another meaty, thoughtful exploration of why men do the evil that they do." Connie Ogle

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"In his new, quite different novel, Swan Peak, Burke offers a troubling outpouring of bloodshed, much of it gratuitous. … Burke wants to make us think the unthinkable, but instead he’s cluttered up and weakened his novel." Patrick Anderson

Critical Summary

Although Dave Robicheaux has (temporarily) left his beloved New Orleans, fans will not be disappointed in this fast-moving, taut, and riveting thriller. Critics noted James Lee Burke’s somewhat lighter tone and brighter mood since his last novel, The Tin Roof Blowdown (2006), a furious reaction to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, though the Miami Herald felt that Swan Peak didn’t measure up to the former novel’s ferocity and immediacy. Burke’s lyrical language and eye for detail are well suited to the rugged physical beauty of Montana, and his characters spring to life as he deftly juggles several different plotlines. Despite a glut of violence and some potentially confusing narrative shifts, Robicheaux’s followers are in for a "deeply terrifying ride" (Oregonian).

Previously Reviewed

A-The Tin Roof BlowdownThe Tin Roof Blowdown (2007): In the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina, sheriff’s deputy Dave Robicheaux of New Iberia Parish helps to sift through the wreckage of New Orleans. In the process, he contends with looters, vigilantes, and a psychopath who is after his daughter. ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Nov/Dec 2007)