Monday, November 17, 2008

A Stained White Radiance

From singles 2

I had never been able to understand the women who hung with outlaw bikers, because with some regularity they were gang-raped, chain-whipped, and had their hands nailed to trees, but they came back for more, obedient, anesthetized, and bored, like spectators at their own dismemberment.

I must say, I really liked that title. Equally true, the story did not thrill me. Maybe I read it in too many small bites. (Burke helped here (?) by shortening the length of his chapters.) Perhaps the story suffers by following so closely to my reading of "Black Cherry Blues" and "Morning for Flamingos"- two very strong efforts.

In "Radiance", Dave Robicheaux is investigating a shooting. Someone has shot through the window of the home of one of his childhood friends- though friend is too strong a word - Weldon Sonnier of the Sonnier family. Weldon doesn't seem to care and his sister, Drew, similarly provides no help. Dave spends at least half the book going between these two looking for insight into this escalating problem while the third sibling, Lyle, the local evangelical, faith-healer keeps looking Dave up to provide history and insist that the culprit is their father who was believed to have been killed in a work accident 30 years earlier. Add in a dash of New Orleans mob boss, Weldon's drug-addled wife's Ku Klux Klan affiliated politician brother, a trio of hired "button men", Clete, Dave's friend/employee Batist, and Bootsie who is struggling with her Lupus.

Both Clete and Batist are unfailingly heroic and Clete remains charmingly cavalier - but the "bad guys" are not distinguished. And, the reluctance of Weldon and Drew to communicate frustrated me as much as Dave. Like other Robicheaux novels, Dave gets an idea in his head about who is bad and pursues that... but often his/our ideas of good and evil don't mesh with the reality of the situation at hand. I apologize for the spoiler - in "Radiance" Dave and Clete are looking for the tie-in between the Aryan Brotherhood, the politician, and the mob- but in this case it is not the secondary mystery, it is just a ruse...and I think that is why I found it so unsatisfying. Maybe I wanted too badly for the bigoted politician to be corrupt - to match my own (like Dave's) prejudice. Maybe this disappointment was just too much reality for me.

I had determined once again to stop keeping score in my ongoing contention with the world, time, and mortality, and to simply thank providence for all the good things that had come to me through no plan of my own.

Oh, and lest you forget this is an Orion Publication:
I could see two trusties from the jail washing petrol cars in the parking lot.

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