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Creole Belle: A Dave Robicheaux Novel Hardcover – July 17, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 761 customer reviews
Book 19 of 20 in the Robicheaux Series

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Editorial Reviews


“Gripping.”—People Magazine

“Burke is the reigning champ of nostalgia noir. . . . To be sure, the destruction of a pristine natural environment is a thematic staple of the regional crime novel, but nobody can touch Burke in the lyrical expression of howling grief. . . . [Creole Belle is] a novel that shows how the sins of the fathers poison the ground their children walk on.”—The New York Times Book Review

“I think [James Lee] Burke is the best fiction writer in the country.”—Bill O’Reilly

“All the characters . . . are superbly drawn, and the plot is heart-pounding . . . sure to be embraced by author James Lee Burke's fans.”—The Washington Post

“Burke, 75, creates lyrical mysteries with what can only be described as deceptive ease. Whether it’s Robicheaux, stand-alone novels, or separate series starring Texas cousins Billy Bob and Hackberry Holland, the themes remain constant. Every novel Burke writes delves into moral ambiguity, the menaces of greed and violence, the degradation of people and land, the juxtaposition of natural beauty and man-made horror and, finally, the sublime joy of human love and loyalty.”The Christian Science Monitor

“Burke never goes wrong with his exquisite gift for taking us into the heart of Louisiana, its wetlands, small towns, the glory of old New Orleans and, as always, its checkered history. Combined with some of the finest characters ever to grace a page, that makes any Robicheaux novel a joy to read.” (The Globe and Mail (Canada))

“Like its 18 predecessors in Burke’s series, Creole Belle is a work of dark and radiant brilliance.”Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Reading James Lee Burke is a religious experience. …Creole Belle may be one of Burke's best; it is certainly one of his most complex. . . . Intense doesn't begin to describe a Burke story . . . Biblical . . . now that about does it.”—San Antonio Express

“The plot is fast-moving and thriller-tough, the bodies mount quickly, and the writing is lyrical and evocative . . . as laced with complications as the canals crosscutting Robicheaux's beloved, threatened wetlands.”—New Orleans Times-Picayune

"If all novelists were as thoughtful and nuanced as James Lee Burke, we could finally put to rest those groundless prejudices against genre fiction . . . the [Dave Robicheaux] books are works of dark art. At their unflinching best, they examine the cost of violence, even when it's performed in the name of justice, and the haunted worlds inhabited by those resigned to limping through life with a blood-soaked conscience." (Miami Herald)

“Burke weaves a rich example of his trademark bayou noir. Filled with cruelty and valor, greed and sacrifice, and surprises of the worst and best kind, Creole Belle is a dark but irresistible cruise.”—Tampa Bay Times

“As a crime novel, Creole Belle delivers everything fans of the genre crave, and more: a masterful tale of good, evil, organized crime and the corporate-led destruction of the once-idyllic land of the Gulf Coast. Burke muses along at a steady pace, never hurrying, never stalling. He uses the modern crime novel the way a master chef uses local, organic foods to create a gastronomic feast—in this case, a classical tragedy with all the fixin’s.”—ShelfAwareness.com

“[Creole Belle] is a wild ride of a novel, but the true joys of Burke’s novels are the exquisitely fine writing and his character’s familiarity with great thinkers and theologians. . . . It is fair to say that Burke truly stands with Chandler and Hammett in the pantheon of great American crime fiction novelists.”—Asbury Park Press

“This tale plays out much like The Glass Rainbow—intimations of mortality; melancholic musing on the pillaging of once-Edenic South Louisiana; cathartic, guns-blazing climax—but, as always, Burke brings something new to the table . . . Dave and Clete may still be unbowed, but they are certainly broken—and all the more interesting for it.”Booklist (starred review)

“Another stunner from a modern master.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Great news for readers who feared that Burke had left Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Robicheaux dying at the end of The Glass Rainbow (2010); Dave and his old friend Clete Purcel are back for an even more heaven-storming round of homicide, New Orleans–style. . . . A darkly magnificent treat for Dave’s legion of admirers.”Kirkus Reviews

“One of the masters, James Lee Burke, has a new Dave Robicheaux novel just out, Creole Belle. Elmore Leonard famously advises all writers to never write about ‘boring stuff’ like the weather, but Burke’s catalog is a direct contradiction to that advice. He writes about Louisiana and the Gulf with such sensual detail about sights, smells, and yes—the weather—that you can skip paying Delta for that flight to the Big Easy.”Detroit News

“Fortunately for us, we can luxuriate in the 500-plus pages of Burke’s sinuous tale before we can decipher this complex puzzle.”Dayton Daily News

“Burke’s fascinatingly conflicted Cajun anti-hero Dave Robicheaux returns.”Dallas Morning News

"Burke has a knack for giving the reader atmosphere through descriptions of architecture, the sights and sounds of overheated New Orleans and southern Louisiana's quirky folks." (Albuquerque Journal)

“When something terrible happens in Louisiana, the only consolation might be that James Lee Burke is inspired to write another Dave Robicheaux novel about it.”—Houston Chronicle

About the Author

James Lee Burke is the author of thirty previous novels and two collections of short stories, including the New York Times bestsellers The Glass Rainbow and Feast Day of Fools. He lives in Missoula, Montana.

Product Details

  • Series: Dave Robicheaux
  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (July 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451648138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451648133
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (761 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Lee Burke, a rare winner of two Edgar Awards, is the author of twenty-three previous novels, including such New York Times bestsellers as Bitterroot, Purple Cane Road, Cimarron Rose, Jolie Blon's Bounce, and Dixie City Jam. He lives in Missoula, Montana, and New Iberia, Louisiana.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm adding this review in response to a review by "cedwint" who is disappointed that James Lee Burke descends into poetic description, political commentary, and elaborate segues into background stories to help us know his characters better.

I've read a lot of this genre, and I keep coming back to Burke because of his detours. I love to see this poverty-striken part of Louisiana through his eyes; we have even visited New Iberia, Bayou Teche, St. Martinsville, Jeanrette, etc. because Burke's prose is so alluring. We knew it was romanticized, but it is part of the folly of Dave Robicheaux (and probably Burke) to be a bit of a dreamer and to see things through a haze of nostalgia. I love it that he writes about his cat and his three legged raccoon. I love it that he speaks up for the impoverished and the oppressed and gives them dignity in his novels. I love it that he takes on some of the big heavy hitters, the big time criminals - politicians and drug dealers and human traffickers and oil company executives - who are the bullies of modern society, using money and power to keep the average decent citizen powerless. I read Burke because it isn't just plot, his writing takes me to a place I've never been and makes it feel like home. Burke calls out the big guys, scorns their pretensions and heaps contempt on their arrogance.

Creole Belle is not unlike the preceding Dave Robicheaux books, I agree. James Lee Burke has an axe to grind, and I am happy to pay for my James Lee Burke books to help him grind that axe. :-)
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Format: Hardcover
Recovering in the hospital from the life-threatening injuries he received at the end of "The Glass Rainbow" Dave Robicheaux is visited in what seems like a morphine dream by a Cajun singer called Tee Jolie Melton, who leaves him an iPod featuring the song "My Creole Belle," a haunting piece of music which comes to obsess Dave. Upon his release, the New Iberia detective learns that Tee Jolie's sister Blue has washed up dead on the Gulf shore encased in a huge block of ice.

Dave's friend Clete Purcel is drawn to a different young woman, named Gretchen, whom he believes is his long lost daughter, and whom he fears might be the assassin behind the killings of several local criminals with mob ties. Working together Dave and Clete discover connections to a broader conspiracy involving sex trafficking, art theft and unscrupulous oil industry executives.

In "Creole Belle," all of James Lee Burke's trademark talents are on prodigious display: his lyrical prose, his poetic rendering of both landscape and character, and his ability to weave current events seamlessly into the story (in this case the Gulf oil spill.) There has been a distinct sense of finality to these last few Robicheaux novels, as both character and writer age, and I love the elegiac melancholy with which Dave's and Clete's kinship is rendered, which also manages to be celebratory. They (and we, at least while we are immersed in Burke's wonderful words) are hurtling toward the bright light of some great and final truth and each mission seems to bring them closer to redemption, even as violence and darkness threatens to pull them back. Here's hoping they both eventually ring that "belle." But not too soon.
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2 Comments 81 of 86 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Normally I worship the words James Lee Burke writes and wish each book would never end. His latest, Creole Belle, feels, and reads, very differently to me and I fought feelings of disappointment throughout. The book is preachy, and philosophically morose without the balance of his usual dry and cutting humor. It feels like a dying man's reflections on his disappointing life. There is a noticeable lack of warmth between the main character, Dave, and his wife, Molly. And, having just read a novel by his real-life daughter, Alafair, the character of his fictional daughter does not seem well imagined. In fact, the whole story feels sadly autobiographical, though that could just be my own imagination. Also, while I know some people never change, or grow up, as an RN it seems to me that Clete's liver, if not his unhinged self-destructiveness, should have done him in a long time ago. Dave's indulgence of him has become just burdensome for Dave and wearying for the reader. Finally, somehow I missed reading "The Glass Rainbow" but I really miss the Robicheaux's life on the bayou with the bait shop and Baptiste. There was something healing there, amid the chaos of the story, that was both atmospheric and stabilizing. This "chapter" of the series just didn't thrill me like the others.
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Format: Audio CD
The good news is that CREOLE BELLE by James Lee Burke is a new Dave Robicheaux novel. The issue of whether or not there would be another after THE GLASS RAINBOW was in doubt, given its deadly and somewhat ambiguous ending, as haunting a conclusion as one is likely to have read. The great news is that CREOLE BELLE, which is by turns haunting, poetic, violent, somber and inspiring, is one of Burke's best novels to date.

One does not sustain the type of damage that Dave Robicheaux did at the conclusion of THE GLASS RAINBOW without consequence. Thus CREOLE BELLE opens with Dave recuperating at a medical facility in New Orleans, his injuries alleviated with the dangerous mercies of a morphine drip that blends distant memory and fantasy with reality. His perceptions are thus in flux when he receives a visit from a young and beautiful woman named Tee Jolie Melton, a good soul whose life is nonetheless a walking car wreck.

Dave had encountered and attempted to assist her on numerous occasions while both on and off duty as a detective with the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department. When she leaves him an iPod with his favorite tunes, including "Jolie Blon" and "My Creole Belle," he believes it to be an act of kindness and nothing more. What he subsequently learns, however, is that Tee Jolie and her sister Blue had disappeared weeks before her appearance at his bedside.

After his release from the hospital, Dave begins to receive late-night calls from Tee Jolie, who alludes to being held against her will. Yet these phone calls appear to be a product of his imagination as well. His family and associates are concerned that he is experiencing fever dreams at best and the aftereffects of morphine withdrawal at worst.
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