James Lee Burke, Feast Day of Fools

Posted January 6, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

Feast Day Of Fools (Hackberry Holland, #3)Feast Day Of Fools by James Lee Burke
Series: Hackberry Holland, 3
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Third in the Hackberry Holland suspense series set in Texas and revolving around a conflicted man of principles.

My Take

Similar and yet not to Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series. Hackberry Holland is also a man beset by addictions as well as having principles. He had some sort of epiphany years ago and he no longer accepts corruption although it can take some interesting perspectives!

It’s through Hack’s interactions with various government agencies and the son of a senator that we view our government’s corruption from pre-Vietnam through today. He also provides us with a startling perspective on war and its effects on the common soldier—I never considered an enlisting soldier’s initial reason(s) for enlisting and following it through to what is really a pretty natural conclusion. We, as a nation, really do not value our soldiers as we should.

I do like Burke’s Hackberry. He’s much better at acceptance than I am and he is so much better at kindness than I would expect of an older sheriff. It cracks me up when Hack doesn’t let his corrupt past interfere with his today—publish and be damned! I don’t, however, “feel the love” that Burke’s words tell us that Pam feels for Hack.

It seems as though survival in this story depends upon how willing one is to accept one’s death. God knows there are enough groups in this story willing and eager to torture, maim, and kill!

The compulsion to kill was in the gene pool…Those who denied it were the same ones who killed through proxy.

The Story

It’s Danny Boy witnessing a horrific execution that starts the ball rolling. The victim is a DEA informant and before we’re done, the FBI, Preacher Collins, Josef Sholokoff, Krill and his men, La Magdalena, Cody Daniels, and Temple Dowling are all involved in a twistier snake than can be believed as each has their own reasons for wanting to capture Noie Barnum.

Temple Dowling will coerce, threaten, and/or blackmail everyone under the guise of patriotism. Agent Riser is a typical FBI agent with a shadow on his tongue who wants everyone’s information but refuses to respond in kind. Josef Sholokoff simply destroys people slowly so he can enjoy both their pain and his lifestyle.

And everyone is interconnected.

The Characters

Sheriff Hackberry Holland is a widower with a lovely concern about “his fellow man’s propensity to act collectively, in militaristic lockstep, under the banner of God and country”. And this philosophy permeates everything in his life. I love that he sees “universal approval” as a “taint on any social or political endeavor”. His team is loyal and will do what they can to mitigate the effects of his honesty. They got each others’ backs in this town.

Deputy Sheriff Pam Tibbs is in love with Hack but doesn’t allow that to spare her tongue. Burke describes her through other eyes, those of “men [who] often thought she was trying to be cute. They were mistaken”. Maydeen Stoltz is the dispatcher. Deputy Sheriffs Felix Chavez and R.C. Bevins have faith in Hack. R.C. knows Hack will find him when he is taken hostage in Mexico. Felix never questions the why of that laser sight—I couldn’t help my laughter. Darl Wingate is a very well-educated doctor who had been a forensic pathologist for the Army and CID before retiring here and now functioning as their Medical Examiner with a philosophy of hands-off.

Danny Boy Lorca is a damaged Native American just surviving on the fringes of society. All those years of taking the hits as a middleweight club fighter have been much less than kind. Occasionally, he has his drunken spree but Hack and his people always provide him with a cot in which to sleep it off.

Krill, a.k.a., Antonio, is a Mexican mercenary. At first accepting money to offset the economic difficulties of farming, Krill later focuses on American targets after an American gunship killed his children. His men include a torture-happy Negrito. They’re trying to re-capture Noie Barnum.

Temple Dowling is the son of Senator Samuel Dowling (the man who promoted and destroyed Hack). Temple is one of those men who kill by proxy as he struts about with his racist, holier-than-thou attitudes, and his preference for underage girls. He can’t even keep the loyalty of his own men. He also wants Noie Barnum.

Josef Sholokoff is a Russian porn dealer, drug dealer, and gun runner; a man who eats evil for breakfast. His men include Daniel Rector and Frank. He too wants Noie Barnum.

Preacher Jack Collins, “a self-anointed Messiah”, has been wanted for years. He’s killed so many men and women over the course of years and yet has never spent a night in jail. Talk about an argument for birth control! Like Krill, he has his own code of honor when it comes to who he kills. Kind of sad that these out-and-out bad guys are so much more moral than a senator or his son spouting their patriotic values.

La Magdalena, a.k.a., Anton Ling, is trying to atone for her violent past by accepting the foibles of others and aiding wetbacks who are crossing the border. Hack is attracted to her due to her resemblance to his dead wife as well as her policies. Reverend Cody Daniels is a self-made man of God driven to it by his part in an abortion clinic bombing. Of course, that doesn’t keep him from preaching against wetbacks. Until Miss Ling. His entire life has been one of excuses until he meets La Magdalena and he begins to confront his fears.

Ethan Riser is an FBI agent who admires Hack’s principles and comes too late to accept them as his own. Noie Barnum is a weapons designer gone missing. Kidnapped? Under deep cover? He was Krill’s prisoner and up on the auction block before he escaped.

The Cover

The cover reflects the story. It appears simple until you really look at it and then the complexity of the brush strokes in forming the cross as first the yellow, then green and then the shades of blue are dragged one on top of the other against its vivid red background.

The title really is what it’s all about, a Feast Day of Fools in the grand tradition of a medieval holiday in which the idiots could do anything they wanted. Hack figures Collins is 500 years too late.

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