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Bitterroot Cover




Chapter One

Doc's deceased wife had come from a ranching family in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. When Doc first met her on a fishing vacation nearly twenty years ago, I think he fell in love with her state almost as much as he did with her. After her death and burial on her family's ranch, he returned to Montana again and again, spending the entire summer and holiday season there, floating the Bitterroot River or cross-country skiing and climbing in the Bitterroot Mountains with pitons and ice ax. I suspected in Doc's mind his wife was still with him when he glided down the old sunlit ski trails that crisscrossed the timber above her burial place. Finally he bought a log house on the Blackfoot River. He said it was only a vacation home, but I believed Doc was slipping away from us. Perhaps true peace might eventually come into his life, I told myself.

Then, just last June, he invited me for an indefinite visit. I turned my law office over to a partner for three months and headed north with creel and fly rod in the foolish hope that somehow my own ghosts did not cross state lines.

Supposedly the word "Missoula" is from the Salish Indian language and means "the meeting of the rivers." The area is so named because it is there that both the Bitterroot and Blackfoot rivers flow into the Clark Fork of the Columbia.

The wooded hills above the Blackfoot River where Doc had bought his home were still dark at 7 A.M., the moon like a sliver of crusted ice above a steep-sided rock canyon that rose to a plateau covered with ponderosa. The river seemed to glow with a black, metallic light, and steam boiled out of the falls in the channels and off the boulders that were exposed in the current.

I picked up my fly rod and net and canvas creel from the porch of Doc's house and walked down the path toward the riverbank. The air smelled of the water's coldness and the humus back in the darkness of the woods and the deer and elk dung that had dried on the pebbled banks of the river. I watched Doc Voss squat on his haunches in front of a driftwood fire and stir the strips of ham in a skillet with a fork, squinting his eyes against the smoke, his upper body warmed only by a fly vest, his shoulders braided with sinew.

Copyright © 2001 by James Lee Burke

Product Details

Burke, James Lee
Simon & Schuster
New York
Vietnamese conflict, 1961-1975
Mystery & Detective - General
Mystery fiction
Private investigators
Men's Adventure
Vietnamese Conflict, 19
Series Volume:
no. 720
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.25 x 6.125 in 19.760 oz

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Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z
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Bitterroot Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9780743204835 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Burke touches on a variety of hot-button issues sure to thrill his fans....Those who relish Burke's patented mix of supercharged violence and overheated passions are in for a treat."
"Review" by , "Burke's Billy Bob Holland series jumped off to a terrific start four years ago with Cimarron Rose, in which the author injected new life into many of the familiar themes – especially a good man's attraction to violence – from his Dave Robicheaux novels....there is some marvelous writing here. Burke's patented lyricism has never been more beautiful – or seemed more fresh – than in his descriptions of the Montana landscape, and he does a wonderful job of contrasting that harmonious and peaceful setting with the jarring dissonance of failed human relations."
"Review" by , "James Lee Burke writes exceptionally clean, unforced prose that has a pronounced streak of poetry in it."
"Review" by , Nobody does cathartic male rage like James Lee Burke. While his villains are always the planet's most loathsome filth — rapists, child molesters, dirty cops, white supremacists — and his heroes the moral avengers who bring them down, the lure of Burke's fiction is that his good guys understand they need the bad guys, and shudder at what they know they have in common.

Burke's latest novel, Bitterroot, can't quite match the New Orleans noir of his bestselling Purple Cane Road. The landscape is Montana — stunning, but less seductive and malevolent — and his hero is no Dave Robicheaux, though they have a lot in common. Billy Bob Holland is an exiled Texas Ranger turned Montana lawyer, trying to help his old friend Doc — a preacher turned Navy SEAL turned radical environmentalist — when Doc's daughter's rapists start turning up dead, and Doc becomes a murder suspect. Both stories are populated by an underworld of vicious bikers, fallen cops and other lowlifes, sensitive young men turned into killers by prison rape, tough but vulnerable teenage girls and middle-aged women — all set against a backdrop of alcoholism, Catholicism, race-mixing and semisteamy romance, with a brawl every few dozen pages.

The emotional power of both books comes from their heroes' lonely self-knowledge and their struggles with self-control. Holland, like Robicheaux, is an angry loner who is all too aware of his own love affair with rage and violence. Unlike the Cajun cop, he's not a recovering alcoholic, but the seduction of alcohol and dissolution is strong in both books. Burke understands the grandiosity, the black-and-white worldview and the addiction to drama that's at the heart of being an alcoholic or an avenging hero. And his heroes recognize that they need to knock somebody's teeth out the same way they need to go on an occasional bender — because losing control just feels so good. They're always grappling with the unsettling question just at the edge of consciousness: Where would all this fury go if they couldn't beat the shit out of bad guys?

The world of women in Burke's fiction occasionally edges toward the creepy. There's a sex crime at the heart of both books: Doc's daughter's rape in Bitterroot, years of molestation endured by the Labiche twins in Road. And the heroes' love objects almost always have disturbing sexual secrets — Robicheaux's wife Bootsie had an affair with dirty cop Jim Gable; in Bitterroot Holland's first love interest, Cleo Lonigan, also slept with the bad guys. Yet he also pairs his heroes with strong female cops, and their partnerships have real chemistry, which in Bitterroot turns into an oddly sweet, simple love affair that is the book's lone haven from darkness.

The flaw of Bitterroot is Burke's failure to pick a villain. There are just too many of them here, all the evil of Americana on display — Holland is up against the Mafia, mining interests, corrupt and drug-addled Hollywood celebrities, inept federal agents, prison gangs, and oh yeah, white supremacists. And even with all those bad guys, the hunt for Doc's enemies — why was his daughter raped, and who killed her rapists? — never gains the emotional intensity of Robicheaux's search for his mother's killers, which is really his attempt to solve the mystery of whether she died a prostitute or a lovelorn barmaid, and why she left him. Still, Burke fans will enjoy the mix of testosterone, spirituality, lust and longing in Bitterroot while waiting for Robicheaux's return.

"Synopsis" by , In Burke's first novel since the bestselling "Purple Cane Road", Billy Bob Holland returns to Bitterroot Valley, Montana to help a friend battle a mining company that threatens the area's economy. What Billy Bob cannot know is that one member of the pro-mining faction is his nemesis, Wyatt Dixon, a recent prison parolee intent on exacting revenge.
"Synopsis" by , Following his acclaimed bestseller Purple Cane Road, James Lee Burke returns with a triumphant tour de force.

Set in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, home to celebrities seeking to escape the pressures of public life, as well as to xenophobes dedicated to establishing a bulkhead of patriotic paranoia, Burke's novel features Billy Bob Holland, former Texas Ranger and now a Texas-based lawyer, who has come to Big Sky Country for some fishing and ends up helping out an old friend in trouble.

And big trouble it is, not just for his friend but for Billy Bob himself — in the form of Wyatt Dixon, a recent prison parolee sworn to kill Billy Bob as revenge for both his imprisonment and his sister's death, both of which he blames on the former Texas lawman. As the mysteries multiply and the body count mounts, the reader is drawn deeper into the tortured mind of Billy Bob Holland, a complex hero tormented by the mistakes of his past and driven to make things — all things — right. But beneath the guise of justice for the weak and downtrodden lies a tendency for violence that at times becomes more terrifying than the danger he is trying to eradicate.

As USA Today noted in discussing the parallels between Billy Bob Holland and Burke's other popular series hero, David Robicheaux, "Robicheaux and Holland are two of a kind, white-hat heroes whose essential goodness doesn't keep them from fighting back. The two series describe different landscapes, but one theme remains constant: the inner conflict when upright men are provoked into violence in defense of hearth, home, women, and children. There are plenty of parallels. Billy Bob is an ex-Texas Ranger; Dave is an ex-New Orleans cop. Dave battles alcoholism and the ghosts of Vietnam; Billy Bob actually sees ghosts, including the Ranger he accidentally gunned down....But most of all, both protagonists hold a vision of a pure and simple life."

In Bitterroot, with its rugged and vivid setting, its intricate plot, and a set of remarkable, unforgettable characters, and crafted with the lyrical prose and the elegiac tone that have inspired many critics to compare him to William Faulkner, James Lee Burke has written a thriller destined to surpass the success of his previous novels.

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