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Wednesday, July 13th, 2005


Crusader's Cross: A Dave Robicheaux Novel (Dave Robicheaux Mysteries)

by James Lee Burke

The Choices Men Make

A review by David Granger

James Lee Burke's novels are irresistible. Whenever you're browsing the airport bookstore or killing time in Barnes & Noble and you see a new Burke book, like his latest, Crusader's Cross, you buy it. It's automatic. How come?

It is, of course, a combination of things. It's his evocation of a place -- rural Louisiana -- that is distinctly spooky and odd and completely corrupt. It's the sense that history weighs on Dave Robicheaux, his protagonist, ready to crush him. It's the fact that Burke continues the only genre of literature unique to America -- the tough-guy novel, invented by Dashiell Hammett and perfected by Raymond Chandler. It's because, even in the hyperbolically violent universe Robicheaux inhabits, the choices he makes are the kinds of choices a man is faced with: what you owe yourself, what you owe your lover, your god, your family, your country.

It's also because he's not afraid to write beautifully about awful things. There is nothing unmanly in being erudite, in crafting sentences that almost sing, and in striving to create literature out of the muck of human cruelty.

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