Customer Reviews: In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead
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on December 22, 2005
Well, there's no need to deliver one more plot synopsis or refine further on the character of Dave Robicheaux. This was only my second reading of a James Lee Burke book ('Jole Blon's Bounce' was the first I read) and all I can think of to say about the wonderful writing, the perfect pacing, the depth and complexity of the characterizations, the tiny bubbles of hilarity that occasionally escape from the dark depths of the story, is to give you a list of adjectives: Lush, evocative, lyrical, breathtaking, gritty, grotesque, poignant, irritating, polemic, dynamic, intimate, sad, painful, peaceful, disturbing, and ultimately seductive. Some of those adjectives may seem contradictory. But so is human nature, and Burke captures that, as well as the landscape of south Louisiana, to a level of perfection that ordinarily escapes homo sapiens. This book made me laugh, made my eyes tear up, made me flinch, made me cheer, made me homesick for a place I haven't seen in 27 years. This book is art. Great art.
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on March 6, 2001
James Lee Burke's creation, Dave Robicheaux, is a perfect Everyman. He struggles with demons - his own, and those of others. He is an excellently flawed man, a man of great strengths, towering weaknesses, and deep melancholy: his humanity bleeds from evgery page.
In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead gives us a better, and deeper, insight into Burke's Everyman. The story purports to be a mystery / thriller, and is designated as such by Amazon. It is, of course, much more, and much less, than that. The mystery is satisfying, of course. Mr. Burke doesn't know how to write a bad mystery. But it's a side-bar to what the book really is: a series of character studies. There's Robicheaux, of course. The story is told in the first person, so the reader is swept into his psyche from the first page. There's Bootsie and Alafair, the people closest to Robicheaux - and the people he often feels are the furthest from him. There's Clete Purcell, his psychotic, sweaty, shambling drunken hulk of a partner. There are the figures from his past, who return to haunt him. And there is, of course, the ghost of the Confederate General with whome Robicheaux confers, and exposes not only himself, but the entire landscape of characters.
Speaking of which - the Louisiana landscape is as much a character as any of the others. The dust, the heat, the colours, the odours, the taste of the land play as large a part as any human in the book.
Mr Burke has been writing the best prose in popular American fiction for the past ten years, if not longer. He has always been a superb writer, making every word perform well above its potential. And in this book, In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead, he has written one of his finest works.
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on May 17, 2000
If you are unfamiliar with this author, this book would be an interesting introduction to the Dave Robicheaux novels by Burke. Burke writes with all five senses in mind. The descriptions of the Southern Louisiana will make you thirst for a sweet tea. The plot revolves around a possible serial murderer of young girls. It also involves the mafia infiltrating his locale through a Hollywood movie making event. The two may be connected. When Dave Robicheaux begins to see Confederate soldiers, and has conversations with them, you wonder, was it Dave Robicheaux' car accident, was it alcohol, or has Mr. Burke opted for a science fantasy turn of events. (No, it is not the latter!) This was an extremely well done novel, not his best of the Dave Robicheaux novels, but still very good. If you haven't read other of James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux novels, anytime is a good time to start. If you enjoy Southern Detective/Police mysteries, these will not dissapoint you.
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on May 15, 2007
Of the 35 or so reviews for this book, not one reviewer is from or even familiar with much of Louisiana, much less the New Iberia area. I am. In fact I was "born on the bayou" in Dautrieve Hospital which sat on the banks of Bayou Tech. My grandmother worked in the courthouse for years cooking for workers and inmates alike. My roots go deep and spread out from Avery Island to Arnaudville. So, when I say that Mr Burke's setting and characters are familiar to me, they are. In fact, just reading short excepts enables me to smell the air before a thunderstorm.... the aroma of crawfish boil. I can hear the melodic mix of English and Cajun French that we all speak. I know the streets, the hang-outs, where to fish and where to eat. I can recognize the "bait shop" and the lake and bayou, the courthouse, famous and infamous.

Having said all that... MR BURKE GETS IT. And has the genious to tranlate everything into the most evocative words. Its pure magic. Robicheaux's haunting, troubled past is completely believable. The characterizations of people hit the mark (sometimes I think I recognize friends and family in those characters).

I have read EVERY Dave Robicheaux book and always anxiously wait for the next. I am OVER THE MOON over the filming of this book (starring Tommy Lee Jones).

Anyone who wants to write about a character and setting that is so ingrained into its resident's soul should read James Burke. HE IS THE MASTER!!
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on July 11, 1999
In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead James Lee Burke Hyperion Publishers Copyright 1993
Of all Burke's novel featuring Dave Robicheaux, this is my favorite - a perfect balance of dialogue, action and luscious description. Written in the first person of the flawed hero, Burke limits the perspective and forces us into a raw intimacy with the main character at times uncomfortable but always compelling. The dialogue is written in dialect when necessary - and Burke gets away with it. He has the gift that reflects the sensuous character of the southern Louisiana setting and never seems trite or overdone-just natural.
I developed a sinere affection for Robicheaux as he fought his own demons and remained true to his values in the face of powerful exterior and interior forces. His voice aches with with the sadness of resignation, yet his melancholic descriptions and thoughts never totally surrender to those demons. Each time I thought I had had just about enough of his wallowing, he picked himself up by his boostraps and smashed his fist into somebody's sleazy jaw- always well deserved.
From the bayou to the city, the complex plot lines weaves a sultry thread throughout the book looping around the many characters of both locales, then pulling the knot ever so slowly.
An intriguing concept that glimmers within the plot are communications with a dead Confederate soldier that blur the line between myth and reality. Questions asked but unanswered. Are they buried memories or messages from beyond the pale?
Burke intertwines so many elements in this novel -a poetic eye, profound insights, raw violence, gripping action and of course, the ability of his 20th century Lancelot to eke out a victory in spite of his human frailities.
A great read.
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on February 5, 2016
James Lee Burke is one of the finest writers producing crime fiction anywhere in the world today. His prose sings. The scenes he sets trigger all five senses. His plots are deliciously complex and challenging. And, more important still, he creates characters that are difficult to forget.

The protagonist of Burke’s twenty-book series of detective novels, Dave Robicheaux, is a Cajun who is a Vietnam combat vet, a fourteen-year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department, and an on-again, off-again deputy in the New Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Department, located west of New Orleans. Robicheaux’s first wife was brutally murdered by drug dealers. He has since married his high school sweetheart, Bootsie. Together, they are raising now ten-year-old Alafair, a delightfully lively Central American girl whom he rescued and adopted several years ago when the plane carrying her and her mother to the United States went down in the Gulf. The three live in an old house on the bayou, steps away from the bait-and-sandwich shop and boat rental that Robicheaux operates with his partner, Batist, a powerful Black man whose intelligence is belied by his mangled syntax. Robicheaux is fifty-three years old in the sixth book in Burke’s series, In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead.

Enter Hollywood and the Southern mob

An offshoot of the Mafia has operated for decades in New Orleans and features prominently in many of Burke’s novels. A central character in In the Electric Mist is Julie Balboni, a six-and-a-half-foot-tall New Iberia-born gangster who returns with a retinue of thugs when he invests in a Hollywood film production on location outside town. Unsurprisingly, Balboni’s investment is a move to launder the profits from his operations in the drug trade.

The film stars an alcoholic leading man, Elrod Sykes, who also takes a place at center stage in the novel. The film’s director, Mikey Goldman, is a volatile, foul-mouthed bully. All these characters, and others, are brilliantly drawn. They come to life on the page.

The ensuing collision of these characters is inevitable, but it’s a genuine pleasure to read about it. The story is suspenseful to the end.

About the author

James Lee Burke is a Grand Master Award winner from the Mystery Writers of America. He has written twenty books in the Dave Robicheaux series, fifteen other novels, and two collections of short stories.
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VINE VOICEon July 21, 2013
A couple of months ago a couple of my cyber friends introduced me to the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke's, a prolific author who I had never heard of.

Folks, let me just say this. If you like crime novels, action-packed believable detective thrillers, haunting mystery novels or just plain interesting novels by someone who has the ability to make to see, smell, taste, hear, feel the atmosphere and transport you into mesmerizing story lines, don't miss reading this 19 book series. I read and review books from a plethora of talented authors; however, none come near the talent of James Lee Burke--Nada! Nobody! This guy can flat out jerk you into the ride of your life lost in time and space ripping through pages of intriguing characters and fantastic scenes in record time and leaving you craving for another treat in this series.

"In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead" is my sixth in this series since June 15, 2013, reading them in between books I have made a commitment to read and review. This one adds another perspective, introducing an intriguing new character in the Robicheaux experience--the ghost of Confederate General John Bell Hood and his men fighting civil war battles while providing clues that brings a new vector to Robicheaux, the character and delicious gossamery entertainment to the reader.

In this episode, Dave "Streak" Robicheaux (pronounced ROW-BUH-SHOW) the divorced, widowed alcoholic who has been on the wagon for years now married to Bootsie, a flawed character herself whose cancer is in remission. Dave's adopted daughter, Alifair who he rescued from the underwater shell of a crashed airplane in a previous episode is a growing child who, when not playing with her pet 3-legged raccoon, Tripod, is now reading, writing and helping illiterate yet intelligent and likable employee, Baptis provide service at Dave's fishing dock and restaurant business.

Robicheaux is now a police officer for the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department dealing with an arrogant movie director who has unwittingly partnered with Streak's former high school baseball teammate, Julie "The Bone" "Baby Feet" Balboni, a vicious Mob Kingpin who has never been arrested or tied to his criminal enterprises and behavior--for good reason.

A series of grisly murders, the work of an unknown psychopathic maniac, with timing that leaves Dave suspecting mafia ties as he pursues the killer while bodies mount and his local support diminishes in proportion with the mob and movie production dollars being pumped into the local economy. As usual, Dave marches to his own cadence, does not trust authority and has a propensity for finding himself in dire circumstances of the worst kind.

Burke's writing skills are first rate. He paints a vividly descriptive setting in this perfectly paced, poignant, realistic tale filled with memorable intriguing Cajun characters in this action-packed episode of the series.

[As an aside, while I have not seen it yet, the big screen version of his book, was released in 2008 staring Tommy Lee Jones as David Robicheaux.]

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on April 27, 2015
A sense of foreboding drifts over New Iberia from the very first page of this most literary novel, as the reader is treated to not one but three mysteries: one is thirty-five years old - the murder of Dewitt Prejean - and serves as a device to draw characters together. Lieutenant Dave Robicheaux, FBI agent Rosie Gomez and General John Bell Hood (1831-1879) search for a sadistic murderer in present-day 1992, the second mystery. They use logic, assumptions, luck, setups, breaches of ethics, intuition and extrasensory clues to determine the connections between an unlikely security guard Murphy Doucet; a hapless has-been movie star Elrod T. Sykes and his lady friend Kelly Drummond; a mobster Julie "Baby Feet" Balboni; the long-retired night jailer Ben Hebert; movie director Mikey Goldman; bottler and "respectable" business man Twinky Lemoyne and others like Sam "Hogman" Patin who plays Harmonica and Twelve-string guitar. Don't you love the names?

The third mystery concerns General Hood and Major Moss. That mystery, dear reader, will not be solved for you by Mr. Burke. That is a mystery for the Ages.

Hood, noted for bravery, recklessness, and aggressiveness, is in some ways an alter ego for Robicheaux. Hood was ultimately defeated by his former West Point instructor. Robicheaux is almost defeated by his boss the Sheriff and deputy Rufus. But, Hood blessed with hindsight and foresight is able to help Dave prevail.

USA Today described this novel as "mystery cloaked in eloquence." It is that and more. Electric Mist captures the people, the patois, the swamps, the dark and humid atmosphere so vividly, I will remember Burke's New Iberia forever. I do not usually read mystery or crime novels, but I have received a couple of that genre recently for review, so I have some limited exposure. However, In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead ranks with the best of books in ANY genre I have read. The genre writers should take their cues from the Master, Mr. Burke. Those amateurs who think that anything literary must be removed in order to appeal to readers or that gratuitous violence is a substitute for eloquence are ruefully mistaken. Burke's murders actually occurred, if that's important to the reader. His victims were "marginalized" people, who now live forever in thoughtful and intelligent prose. Burke has identified Keats, Chaucer, Milton and Shakespeare as the greatest English language writers but has said that Faulkner could join their rank at the Tabard Inn. I think they would welcome Burke, too.
I have my own Confederate ghost, an ancestor, who would have been a major contributor to Southern writing, had he not worn the gray and died under a tree in Tennessee. Maybe not coincidentally, he spoke to me a couple of times this month marking the 150th year since the end of that Civil War. Maybe synchronicity led me to In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead this month. Maybe General Hood did. This book of James Lee Burke brought my ancestor to consciousness again. If you like murder mysteries; if you like Civil War History; if you read literary novels; if you want to learn some French; if you would like to know more about Louisiana, then download it to your kindle immediately.

Leila Smith, for The Kindle Book Review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon. This review was not solicited.
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HALL OF FAMEon January 18, 2000
There are two strong aspects of James Lee Burke's series about Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux that make them unique and memorable: the lush description that absolutely puts the reader in the locale and the recurrance of 'mystic' elements - images in dreams etc - that give the plots a mythic, larger than life, stature. In this book, I think, both elements are overplayed just a bit too much. One longs for more story and less atmosphere, and the materialization of Confederate 'ghosts' that impinge on the outcome of the plot strains credulity severly.
I enjoy this series, even when it is over the top as is sometimes the case. There is nothing else quite like it in contemporary crime fiction. But every now and then I wish that Burke would reign himself in. He seems to get seduced by his own words and carried away to a place that the reader cannot always follow. Of course, when he is on the mark, no one can touch him for description and atmosphere. In the case of this book, I just wanted more story - and more flesh and blood.
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on February 28, 2015
NOBODY paints a better picture with words (of scenes, situations, and persons) than James Lee Burke! I've about read all of his books and I've yet to read one I didn't very much like. Burke picked up when John D. MacDonald left off and did him even better as a master storymaker -- they both earned their places as my two favorite 20th century American fiction writers.
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