Book Review: James Lee Burke’s Light of the World

Posted September 11, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: James Lee Burke’s Light of the World

Light of the World

on July 23, 2013 and has 548 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Twentieth in the Dave Robicheaux mystery series which is usually based in Louisiana. This particular story takes place near Missoula, Montana.

My Take

Not as satisfying as it usually is and with a lot more introspection on Dave’s part with most of the action between Dave and Clete with Alafair and Gretchen coming up fast. A lot of daddy-worry. There was almost no Molly until the end, even though they’re on vacation together.

Burke doesn’t give a good reason why Dave treats Alafair as he does. He knows better. He knows that Alafair isn’t the type to cry wolf. Nor did I buy all the interference on Dave and Clete’s part with the local sheriff. Sure, Bisbee comes to Dave at the start due to his own lack of experience, but I can’t imagine any sheriff accepting as much mucking about as these two did, well three, with Gretchen. And the sheriff doesn’t do much about it. Didn’t seem as if he did much of anything about anything other than blow hot and cold on the Bobbsey Twins.

Burke goes on about Surrette, but leaves it all vague, for the blanks to be filled in later. I can understand using the tease, but this felt more like Burke just forgot to fill bits in along the way. This isn’t the only vague bit either. There’s Bill Pepper and his actions. Why does Bisbee even employ people like him? His successor appears to be canned before we know it. Felicity’s supposed resemblance to the saint she’s named for. Burke tosses this in and then props it up here and there. The whole story is like a jumble of ideas that Burke doesn’t bother going anywhere with.

There’s Felicity’s hot-cold as she teases and entices Clete, who blunders right on in. At least this is per usual…and getting rather boring about it.

What was the point of mentioning the wolves? Why keep the identity of the family who is letting the room secret?

Bloody hell. I spent more time trying to figure out the loose ends than I did reading the story.

Oh, please. Younger is the one who pushed Gretchen to talk, then he blames her for it?

Of all people, Gretchen is the one I would never have thought would be so naive. Although, I gotta say, like father, like daughter. Neither of them will let the attack on Gretchen go.

Why is Dave so down on Wyatt? I’d’a thought he’d be one of the first to at least seriously think about spiritual stuff, what with the ghosties he’s seen in the past. Burke does do a nice job of changing my mind about Wyatt. A nice slow twist.

Pretty much a repeat of Clete and Dave’s histories, but we do get a good hunk of Gretchen’s back history. Another reason why parents should be licensed!

What is with these people? Family members keep getting kidnapped and their only reaction is not my problem?

This one is unsatisfying, half-hearted. Too vague, too same-same, although I do like the direction Burke is going with Alafair and Gretchen. I also liked Dave’s come-to-Jesus evolution about Gretchen.

The Story

It starts depressingly with a recap by Dave of his chequered career and Alafair’s almost dying where the Robicheauxs and Clete are on vacation in Montana.

It’s a mess with Clete and Dave a bit off center in it all as people are hurt, killed, and/or kidnapped while the sheriff can’t seem to get those blinders off.

The Characters

Dave Robicheaux is a sheriff’s detective in New Iberia, Louisiana, and he’s married to Molly, a former nun. Dave’s had a hard life complicated by alcoholism that he used to cope with his return from serving in Vietnam. Alafair Robicheaux is their adopted El Salvadoran daughter with a degree in psychology, and she was a Stanford law student with her first novel published, a second one coming out this summer, and working on the third.

Clete Purcell is a private investigator and bounty hunter for Wee Willie Bimstine and Ng Rosewater; he was Dave’s partner when the two of them were the Bobbsey Twins of Homicide with the New Orleans PD. The two of ’em are notorious! Clete does everything wrong in his life, but he does mean well. He recently discovered (Creole Belle, 19) that he has a daughter, Gretchen Horowitz, who has just graduated from film school. An upgrade from her former career as a Mob hit woman where she was known as Caruso. She had good reason. Percy Wolcott is the good-hearted pilot who helps Gretchen.

Wyatt Dixon, a rodeo man, is from Fort Davis, Texas, but he has a ranch here in Montana where he camps, yep, in the house. A stint in prison with a course of weird medications has left him a bit slow, and he has his own sense of honor. He’s a religious fanatic and speaks in tongues. Wyatt is quite clever in his drawing out of Love. Bertha Phelps is a journalist.

Albert Hollister is a novelist and a retired English professor with a large house in Montana who has invited the group to spend some time. Dave may not consider him a rabble rouser, but he sure acts like one! Opal is his dead wife.

Elvis Bisbee is the sheriff in Missoula, and while he seems ineffectual, he does have a sense of honor. Bill Pepper is a detective and has some nasty issues, as does his successor Detective Jack Boyd. Bisbee needs to do some kind of character testing… Emile Schmitt is a PI and bail-skip chaser out of Fort Lauderdale and Atlantic City. Special Agent James Martini has heard of Dave.

Love Younger is an oil man and one of the ten wealthiest men in the United States. His foster granddaughter, Angel Deer Heart, has gone missing. Caspian is his entitled son while Felicity Louviere (she’s from New Orleans; her dad was Rene Louviere, a former cop), well, who knows about her. She’s a contradiction in so many ways. Tony Zappa and Kyle Schumacher are some of the men who work for Younger. Rosa Segovia is Kyle’s soon-to-be-former girlfriend.

Asa Surrette is a convicted serial killer from Kansas whom Alafair interviewed some time back.

Reverend Geta Noonen is one of those universal kind of preachers. With an agenda. Rhonda Fayhee is a waitress at a local café. Seymour Little has a focus part. Ralph is the father and a reverend.

Philo “Whiplash” Wineberger is a bottom-of-the-barrel lawyer in New Orleans. Terry McCarthy popped up out of nowhere.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a red canvas background with four different, horizontal arrowheads drawn in pastels, each arrow separating the author’s name and the words in the title. I have no clue as to why the arrowheads as the Native American aspect to this is slight.

I’m clueless as to the inspiration of the title as well. The Light of the World could well refer to how Clete and Dave view their “little” girls.