Ah, summer. When serious readers can indulge their guilty pleasures. Mine includes the serial crime novels of James Lee Burke. This summer, I’m reading #20 in the Dave Robichaux novel series, “Light of the World.” Burke’s novels are very popular summer reads. Their publication dates frequently occur in July. He’s won the Edgar Award twice for Best Crime Novel of the Year. Early in his career, Burke was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and NEA grant, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Two of his Robichaux novels have been made into films.
“Light of the World” received mixed reviews this summer but I’m undeterred. I’m a fan, not just of the writer but of his characters, Dave and Cletus. I’m willing to suspend disbelief, despite the fact that both of these former New Orleans cops and Vietnam vets are, by my calculation, well into their 70’s and yet still capable of tramping through wilderness and lugging heavy armaments when needed.
Burke’s plots are fairly straightforward. It’s character development that emerges as his great strength as a crime novelist. I find myself coming back with each new novel to join these compelling characters in their world of victims and villains, heroes and anti-heroes. I’ve dabbled in other crime series, including Sue Grafton’s alphabet series and Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware, but none have captured my imagination like James Lee Burke.