10 August 2013

Mystical mystery

Back to the half-price used books I bought last spring. I read this one a month or more ago, but it was set aside for other things.

The book was The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke. I picked it up because I've read a couple other books by Burke. Twelve years ago I read Cadillac Jukebox. Sometime since then I read Swan Peak. There's no online record of my thoughts about that one.

I also picked up the Burke book because of Bird Loomis' recommendations (now and a dozen years ago).

I was in a different mood this summer than I was in August of 2001. I didn't like The Glass Rainbow as well as I liked Cadillac Jukebox. Then again, the books might be different too.

A decade ago I compared Burke to Steven Greenleaf and complained that Greenleaf had included too much foreboding. Well, The Glass Rainbow is permeated with foreboding. The foreboding almost overwhelms the story telling. As Burke's detective Dave Robicheaux seeks solutions to the deaths of seven young women, he's pursued by the hallucination of a huge paddle wheeler on the canal behind his house.

The landscape of watery, hot, and humid Louisiana again plays a role in the story telling. I still have little appreciation for the tropical images Burke paints so well. I do much better with the desert images of Tony Hillerman or the dry mountains described by Craig Johnson. (I want to point out that I'm comparing Burke to two of my favorite mystery writers.) No wonder Burke has retired for summers in Montana.

By the end of The Glass Rainbow, I wasn't sure what was real and what was part of Robicheaux's fevered psyche. As I closed the book, I wondered if Burke had finally killed of his hero after 18 books. The big riverboat had come for him and his ancestors had welcomed him aboard. It was only when I read a review of Burke's newest book that I found it out it opens in Robicheaux's hospital room when he wakes up.

There was some good story telling, but I closed the book unhappy with my reading experience. I didn't like the exquisite depiction of the Turkish bath weather or the mumbling philosophy of the man on the fevered edge of life. That stuff overwhelmed a complex plot with lots of bad guys and suspense.

Have you read The Glass Rainbow? What did you think about it? Write. Tell this little bit of the world what you think.