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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dark book for a dark period in New Orleans...
Heaven's Prisoners by James Lee Burke is the second book in his Dave Robicheaux mystery series. While Burke's series has grown to be one of the best ever, in Heaven's Prisoners, he's still in the growing stage.

Since book one, Neon Rain, Robicheaux has quit the New Orleans Police Department, cashed in his pension and bought a boat-and-bait business on a bayou...
Published on September 2, 2005 by Cynthia K. Robertson

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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Black as Swamp Water
That James Lee Burke is one of the most talented writers of modern fiction cannot be denied. Few superlatives would exaggerate the power of his lyrical prose; the lucid images his words conjure. Burke's southern Louisiana bayous are no mere backdrops in which a mystery is dropped, but such forceful allegory that character and plot sometimes must play a secondary role to...
Published on October 18, 2004 by Gary Griffiths


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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dark book for a dark period in New Orleans..., September 2, 2005
Heaven's Prisoners by James Lee Burke is the second book in his Dave Robicheaux mystery series. While Burke's series has grown to be one of the best ever, in Heaven's Prisoners, he's still in the growing stage.

Since book one, Neon Rain, Robicheaux has quit the New Orleans Police Department, cashed in his pension and bought a boat-and-bait business on a bayou in New Iberia. He has also married Annie Ballard. They have tried to settle into a quiet life, but it's just not in Robicheaux's nature. Robicheaux and Annie are boating on the Gulf when they see a plane go down. Robicheaux straps on his scuba tank, and is able to rescue a small girl (the four adults are already dead). The girl is a Salvadoran refugee and Robicheaux and Annie name her Alafair and decide to raise her as their own. But when federal authorities report that only three bodies were onboard the plane, Robicheaux starts investigating the identity of the mystery man and the reason for the cover-up. He is first visited by the DEA and Immigration. Then he is threatened by mob enforcers and told to mind his own business. It soon becomes obvious that the Iberian Sheriff's Department is clueless (the sheriff runs a dry cleaning business with greater efficiency), so Robicheaux reluctantly joins the sheriff's department as a deputy.

Heaven's Prisoners follows the same formula of most Burke books. Robicheaux stumbles onto something illegal or suspicious. When he starts investigating, he gets threatened and warned off by some bad guys (mobsters, feds, crooked cops and/or unscrupulous businessmen). Robicheaux can't just leave things alone, and the situation quickly escalates. He's not the bumbling Inspector Columbo, armed with only a wrinkled trench coat. Instead, he bursts on the scene with a loaded and cocked .45. And then something catastrophic occurs.

This book is Burke's darkest book yet, and Robicheaux deals with his alcoholism, Viet Nam flashbacks and death. While he claims to loathe "the political hypocrisy and the addictive, brutal ugliness of metropolitan law enforcement," Robicheaux finally admits that he actually "loved the adrenaline rush of danger" and his "feelings of power over an evil world." Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of his family.

What made reading this book especially sobering was reading it immediately after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans and southern Louisiana. Burke has a true love affair with NOLA and the bayou, and I hope that this area can be brought back to its former beauty (rural areas, towns and cities alike). Burke quotes an eerily prophetic set of lyrics from a John Fogerty song that read: "Don't come `round tonight/It's bound to take your life/A bad moon's on the rise/I hear hurricane's a blowing/I know the end is coming soon/I feel the river overflowing/I can hear the voice of rage and ruin."

I enjoyed Heaven's Prisoners and it definitely filled in more gaps about Robicheaux's background. Also, Burke continues to be a master of down-home witticisms. One of my favorites is "I'm floating around on an ice cube that's melting in a toilet." I have two more books on deck, but then I think I'm going to take a little break. I need to start reading something a little less dark for a spell.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading Twice, April 27, 2004
I've read most of Burke's Dave Robicheaux series, and enjoyed them quite a bit. Heaven's Prisoners is one of the two best, the other being In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. Mist is Burke at his most exotic--Dave's on an acid trip for a substantial part of the book; Heaven's Prisoners is Burke at his darkest. I'm unwilling to go into the plot; in fact I strongly urge you not to read further reviews as there are substantial spoilers in many of them that will ruin the experience for you. Suffice it to say there's plenty of action, plenty of suspense. Of course, most any thriller or action novel today promises that; where Burke is unusual is in his ability to handle language. He writes like he's in love with language, and it's a pleasure to read him. Mickey Spillane once said about himself that he didn't write novels, he wrote books; Burke definitely writes novels, and extremely literate ones at that. He's one of a generation of novelists, along with Michael Connelly, James Hall, and Dennis Lehane, who have inherited the mantle of Raymond Chandler and wear it with pride; in Burke's case, he seems also to draw inspiration from William Faulkner. Robicheaux's a complex man, tortured by his own inadequacies and yet immensely strong simultaneously, and he's a prisoner of the dark, decaying Southern environment he was raised in. If you prefer simple action, plots, and characters like Mike Hammer or Robert Parker's Spenser, you'll surely think Burke is overwritten. But for a real literate treat, with an electric story, fantastic dialogue and descriptions, and characters you'll want to revisit, read Heaven's Prisoners. I almost never reread a fiction book, except by accident--there's just too much new stuff out there; but I deliberately read this one again, and enjoyed it just as much the second time.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical evocation of Southern Louisiana, August 9, 1998
By A Customer
Readers expecting a standard detective novel will be amazed at the literary quality of Burke's characters and landscape. Even those who know nothing about Southern Louisiana or Cajun culture will feel that they have been there. The story is tautly constructed but the dialogue and descriptive passages are some of the best in the world of today's writers. Burke's use of colloquial names like the "four-corners" rather than the "crossroads" makes an individual place very real. It is very frustrating to Burke/Robicheaux fans that the movie, well cast, beautifully photographed, and with the same atmosphere as the book was caught up in Hollywood studio politics and when finally released after a lengthy delay received no advertizing or other promotion. Alec Baldwin's portrayal of Robicheaux gives all Burke readers a mental image to carry as they read all the other seven books about this complex literary character. James Lee Burke has also written a number of! books NOT about the Cajun detective and they are all worth a read and a re-read.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific writing,wonderful characters, October 14, 2000
By 
A. Hogan (Brooklyn, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
James lee Burke is one of thosed underrated masters of prose,forever delegated to second rung because of his genre. Heavens prisoners, the second in this series,is,in many ways, the best. Dave Robicheux, the alcoholic new Orleans cop,is out fishing when a single engine plane crashes into the lake,and everything changes.Mr. Burke's descriptions of alcoholic despair and rage are perhaps the finest,and least sentimental I have read. The violence is brutal and freakish in its intensity[as violence is],the dialogue is so well written that i feel for these characters,and want to read more. Though much Longer then Neon rain, the first entry,Mr. Burkes seems to hold the intensity through the narrative. From the lousiana locales to histroical comments on Cajuns, from Cletus Purcell{his sort of sidekick]to the suprising[at least for me] ending, Mr. Burke solidifes himself as one superb writer.And, fortunately, the series goes on ...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Quotable Mr. Burke, From the Bayou!, June 2, 2011
By 
Wolfe Moffat (Franklinville, NY) - See all my reviews
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"Most criminals are stupid. They creep $500,000 homes in the Garden District, load up two dozen bottles of gin, whiskey, vermouth, and collins mix in a $2,000 Irish linen tablecloth and later drink the booze and throw the tablecloth away."
One of many quotes of brilliance from Dave Robicheaux, of course, written in the many novels of one James Lee Burke. You read this guy, you might find him kind of rough around the edges. But you'll find among the grit, a poetic edge that most authors would die for! He knows how to write, and he really knows how to put together a mystery in Louisiana territory, right in the heart of the Bayou. My Robicheaux adventures began with "Cadillac Jukebox," went on to "Jolie Blon's Bounce," and then I finally decided to go back in time to where it all began, "The Neon Rain," and I was literally blown away. And "Heaven's Prisoners" was the next grinding long haul for Dave Robicheaux. Would I be impressed? You bet!

Dave and his wife, Annie, are getting on with their lives, selling bait, and enjoying what is simple. That simplicity is about to become complicated rather quickly with a plane crash on the Gulf. But with the crash, a sweet little girl comes in the picture, and we know her as Alafair. And Dave rekindles his sense of being a protector, bringing this little one into his home. Things do not completely go as planned.

A childhood friend, Bubba Roque, and his unusual wife, enter the picture, whether they like it or not. Roque has a boxer's chin, and his wife isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. But murder and crime are a part of this picture, and whether Dave is a detective or not, the murder of Annie makes everything personal! Robicheaux is back on the scene with a badge, and he's on his own mission.

I'm calling James Lee Burke a legend in his own time, and I hope he stays that way. I don't get sick of his stories, and I thrive off the passion he puts into the moment! He's quotable in everyday life, maybe even your own personal podna throughout the journey. He can be dead serious, yet he can also bring a sense of humor to situations when the time is right. He speaks of delights such as catfish dinners, or Grapenuts with strawberries for breakfast, while still enjoying his morning coffee, with or without a hangover. There are certain demons to be battled with Burke and his work. But when those demons are conquered, you can't wait for the next round!
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Black as Swamp Water, October 18, 2004
By 
Gary Griffiths (Los Altos Hills, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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That James Lee Burke is one of the most talented writers of modern fiction cannot be denied. Few superlatives would exaggerate the power of his lyrical prose; the lucid images his words conjure. Burke's southern Louisiana bayous are no mere backdrops in which a mystery is dropped, but such forceful allegory that character and plot sometimes must play a secondary role to his poetry. But therein lies the problem - Burke's mood and moodiness, as reflected in the character of Dave Robicheaux, can eventually wear down even the most ardent Burke fan. Nowhere is this sense of despair and desperation more apparent than in "Heaven's Prisoners", the second in the Robicheaux series. Ostensibly a thriller/mystery involving a suspicious plane crash and Robicheaux's unofficial investigation of the forces behind it, this is really the tale of Robicheaux's (and Burke's, one would assume) internal struggles with alcoholism, guilt, self-doubt, and eventual revenge. In the Louisiana of "Heaven's Prisoners", it seems to rain only slightly less than in "Blade Runner", providing the perfect settings for the author's rather bleak outlook on culture, love, and the inequities of life in general. Bleeding heart liberalism is always lurking surreptitiously between the lines of Burke's fiction, though in this one, the cause of Burke's despair is less apparent. In summary, "Heaven's Prisoners" is an effort typical of Burke's superb literary skills, though not his finest. If the reader is looking for redemption as a reward of following Burke's meandering journey of self-pity and doubt, I fear that, like our hero Robicheaux, in the end will come up short.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An early book from one of our best mystery writers, October 6, 2013
In "Heaven's Prisoners," it's easy for the reader to picture the Louisiana landscape and culture existing in the New Orleans and New Iberia areas due to the wonderful writing and descriptions of the author, James Lee Burke.

The characters he depicts rise up from the pages and it seems that the reader is in the same room as they are, or maybe sitting on the edge of a bayou discussing the dead body of a young woman whose body had just been discovered by a poor fisherman.

Dave Robicheaux is one of the most respected and admired detectives in modern mystery novels. His belief in himself and his fellow men is noteworthy, as is his goal of wanting to help the less fortunate.

Dave and his wife Annie are on their boat when a small plane crashes. Dave saves a six-year-old girl's life and much of the rest of the story has to do with why she was on the plane and people who want to get her.

Dave's wife, Annie, is just one of the well described characters. Her part in the story makes Dave go into a frenzy to find out why it happened.

I enjoyed the well described characters and well plotted story that had a number of surprises that the reader will never forget.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite in the series, June 27, 2010
By 
K. Turner "kbt24" (Hartford, CT United States) - See all my reviews
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I am a pretty big fan of the Dave Robicheaux series but this was my least favorite book so far. I understand that Dave has a "cowboy" personality and always wants to rebel against any kind of authority figure but it was way overdone in this book.

Also, I got pretty tired of young, really attra active women begging to sleep with Dave (a not-so-young alcoholic who has tons of issues and isn't particularly attractive). Once the third girl came after him, I was really rolling my eyes...

All of that said, I really do like the series and have enjoyed many of the other books. I won't give up on Dave Robicheaux yet.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HEAVEN'S PRISONERS --A GOOD READ!!!!!, June 16, 2001
By 
This is the second in the Dave Robicheaux series. I am trying to read them in order. Dave has quit the New Orleans police department and is running a fishing camp. He is married and very happy. Then a plane crash, and one of the bodies disappears. Dave is drawn back into the underworld he knows so well. This time he really pays for his involvement. Won't say how because it would take away from the reading. He goes at it with Bubba Rocque, a man he grew up with and has known for years. Bubba in one of the bad guys now. But, is it Bubba or his wife that is the worse. Burke writes so you can feel like you are there. You can see the people fishing and moving through the darkness. Except for his flashbacks I would give it a 5 rating but I don't care for those. A good book that will hold you attention.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Skip this one, April 24, 2012
By 
Thorsten (Geneva, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Heaven's Prisoners (Dave Robicheaux Book 2) (Kindle Edition)
I picked up this second book in the series because I had very much enjoyed The Neon Rain which was gritty, violent and dark, and very well written. The writing here is still very good but there are a few major things wrong with this book that made me want to put it down.
1) The plot basically doesn't exist. Here's my summary: Our hero is bored with his worm & bait business and beautiful wife, so he decides to meddle in other people's affairs. Those people send him a warning. He's insulted and meddles some more. The bad guys retaliate, and our here decides it's time to take revenge because "they" did him wrong. How much more basic could it get?
2) The hero is middle aged, right? Yet all the women have the hots for him, no matter if it's the busty country girl, the busty hooker with the good heart or the busty lesbian gangster chick.
3) And further to number 2 ... his wife, the busty country girl keeps nagging him about not sticking his nose into other people's business. Yet when the going gets tough she for no believable reason decides to stick around until it's her turn to get shot.
4) But most infuriating of all ... Dave just decides to give the newly acquired refugee girl a new name, calling her Alafair of all things. The girl can talk, has a past, and probably a name. We don't know though because no one ever asks her.
Actually, this book is pretty terrible compared with The Neon Rain. However, I'd give it about 1.5 stars because the writing is still superior, the second half is better than the first, and I actually finished reading it. I'm hoping that this author who writes so beautifully will actually have something to say in the next book of the series.
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