REVIEW: Pegasus Descending

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Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke, crime/mystery novel, 2006.

I really like James Lee Burke’s work. His crime novels are always filled with interesting, complex and three-dimensional characters, and great atmosphere/vividly realized settings. He can be by turns sweet and lyrical, sardonically amusing, and brutally honest–not to mention honestly brutal.

I’ve just read this, one of his many fine novels centered around Dave Robicheaux–a troubled but resourceful, caring yet often violent detective with the Iberia Parish, Louisiana Sheriff’s office. This isn’t my first Robicheaux adventure by any means and surely isn’t my last–I try to locate and savor at least one in this series every year or so.

As so often happens with Dave, a disturbing incident from his checkered past (he’s a combat veteran and recovering alcoholic) comes roaring back into his life–and the lives of those around him. That includes his even more unstable buddy and ex-New Orleans police partner, the spunky and supportive ex-nun who is his second wife, the clear-eyed and multi-leveled female Sheriff and many other familiar characters, including the politically ambitious DA Dave frequently clashes with. Plenty of new, vivid people show up this time as well–for better or worse (mostly worse, as the ‘body-count’ in this book is substantial, to say the least).

As the cover art hints, the plot this time centers on corruption involving the casino industry, which has become such a big deal in Dave’s home state. Criminals both homegrown and out of state–and very significantly their family members–bedevil Dave’s investigation. So does a TV preacher, a sexy young woman out to avenge her father’s murder, the grieving father of a girl who committed suicide and a prickly but ultimately decent FBI agent. Yet another key character is a black street kid named Monarch, who is certainly no saint (he sells drugs, among other things)–but is he a killer, or being set up by even more ruthlessly evil forces?

On the other hand, the book’s title–while a grabber–has only a slight connection to the plot.

Twists and turns aplenty fill this book’s 356 pages, leading to a satisfying (though predictably violent) climax.

This one (as with the series on the whole) I highly recommend to fans of tough but intelligent crime fiction.

 

 

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