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Light of the World: A Dave Robicheaux Novel Hardcover – July 23, 2013

960 customer reviews
Book 20 of 20 in the Robicheaux Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Hats off to the Library of Congress cataloger who applied the subject heading “Good and Evil” to Burke’s latest Dave Robicheaux novel. In that simple tag lies the core of this acclaimed series. Robicheaux, the Cajun detective with a melancholy streak as wide as the Mississippi, grieves lost innocence in all its forms, but as much as he remembers goodness in the past, he crusades against evil in the present. The bad guys against whom Robicheaux—along with his equally tormented comrade-in-arms, Clete Purcell—campaigns sometimes take the form of bent rich guys driven by blind greed. But occasionally the evil comes in a more chilling, vaguely supernatural form—depravity beyond sociology—giving these novels a darker, more mythic tone, with Robicheaux cast as a contemporary Beowulf, asked to plunge deep into the heart of darkness to confront the Grendels lurking beneath the surface of daily life. So it is here, when serial killer Asa Surette, believed dead, resurfaces in Montana with scores to settle, including one with Robicheaux’s daughter, Alafair. The plot plays out in a manner that will be familiar to Burke fans, including a firestorm of a climax near Flathead Lake, but there is one big difference: no longer is it just Dave and Clete sallying forth, armed to the teeth, to slay the monster. No, this time it’s a family affair, with the next generation—Alafair and Clete’s daughter, Gretchen, who surfaced in Creole Belle (2012)—also locked, loaded, and standing alongside their fathers in the final confrontation. It sounds over the top, but it works, enveloping the reader in the visceral terror of the moment and reminding us that Grendel may still swim in our midst. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Burke has won two Edgars and been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America; his Dave Robicheaux novels routinely lodge themselves on the New York Times bestseller list. This one will, too. --Bill Ott


“Over the years, James Lee Burke’s voice has grown more messianic, his books more biblical. He’s in full fire-and-brimstone mode in Light of the World. . . . [The] monstrous villain [makes] life a living hell for an expanded cast of the quaintly insane characters who are Burke’s specialty. For that alone, let’s give the devil his due.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux, the haunted, all-too-human homicide detective from the Louisiana bayou country, first appeared more than 25 years ago in The Neon Rain. It was apparent, even then, that Burke had given us an extraordinary character, one whose depth, complexity and evocative narrative voice was worth returning to again and again. That has turned out to be the case. Light of the World is the 20th installment in this increasingly ambitious series, and it reaffirms Robicheaux’s status as one of the most successfully sustained creations in contemporary crime fiction.” (Washington Post Book World)

“Dave Robicheaux [is] a man of action, with the eye of a painter and the tongue of a poet.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“James Lee Burke is truly an American treasure, right up there with the Liberty Bell, the Constitution, and apple pie. To say he is a mystery writer is like saying the Atlantic Ocean is a pond.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

“I long ago exhausted my skimpy store of superlatives on James Lee Burke’s exquisite prose and moving plots. . . . Once again, Burke takes us to the best and worst of worlds.” (Margaret Cannon Globe and Mail (Canada))

“Evocative, lyrical, and haunting . . . [Robicheaux] is a complex, thoughtful, damaged and violent man, unlike any protagonist in modern mystery fiction. . . . Mr. Burke’s books are beyond traditional procedural mysteries. You won't find better writing in, or arguably out of, the genre. While uncommon in almost every way, his characters are knowable and very real.” (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

“This magnificent new novel seems the capstone of a formidable career, an awesome world bristling with references to Elizabethan and Greek tragedy, Roman emperors, the stench of the devil, and the Manichean vision of medieval chronicles.” (The Providence Journal-Bulletin)

“[Light of the World] is vintage Burke: a killer plot, flawed but decent heroes, loathsome villains, a keen sense of history and philosophy and prose that leaves the reader in awe. . . . At once lovely and lethal, Light of the World shimmers with Burke’s ability to depict the best and the worst of the human family, and to do so with a steady eye and a generous heart.” (Jay Strafford Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“Robicheaux [is] arguably the most original and interesting character in contemporary crime fiction.” (The Houston Chronicle)

“You can call Burke a crime fiction writer, but I call him a national treasure — he's not just a master of propulsive plots, rich prose and achingly real characters, he's a writer who looks unflinchingly at violence in American culture, at every level from the personal to the corporate. . . . Despite such moments of despair, Dave Robicheaux is an enduring hero, and Burke takes Light of the World pedal-to-the-metal to a hair-raising standoff and a satisfying end.” (Tampa Bay Times)

"Terror is unleashed when an escaped serial killer comes looking for revenge . . . Though Burke's tales involve some of the most vile characters and violent situations in popular fiction, his body of work has transcended genre to become what many critics and academicians regard as literature." (The Sacramento Bee)

“Burke remains a clear-eyed realist when it comes to violence and the haunted conscience, but his descriptions of the natural world are just as powerful.” (Christian Science Monitor)

"Burke’s boldest and most complex novel to date, at once a superb crime story and a literary masterpiece from an author who has been named a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master." (Associated Press)

“Hats off to the Library of Congress cataloger who applied the subject heading ‘Good and Evil’ to Burke’s latest Dave Robicheaux novel. In that simple tag lies the core of this acclaimed series. . . . Occasionally the evil comes in a more chilling, vaguely supernatural form—depravity beyond sociology—giving these novels a darker, more mythic tone . . . but it works, enveloping the reader in the visceral terror of the moment.” (Booklist, starred review)

“Burke produces his most sharply focused, and perhaps his most harrowing, study of human evil, refracted through the conventions of the crime novel.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A powerful meditation on the nature—and smell—of evil . . . But even as the stomach roils, the fingers keep turning the pages because the much-honored Burke (two Edgars, a Guggenheim Fellowship) is a master storyteller.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“Fans will be thrilled to find Robicheaux and Clete Purcel joined by their respective adult daughters in a hard-hitting, intense battle between good and evil. . . . As the story unfolds, a rodeo cowboy who speaks in tongues, a serial killer who should be dead, ex-cons, rapists, bear traps and evil that dwells in caves in the hills all come together in perhaps the greatest showdown of Burke's career.” (

“A hellbent death-row inmate escapes and comes gunning for Cajun police detective-troubleshooter Dave Robicheaux, his family and friends. This is the 20th Robicheaux tale by a celebrated master of the thriller genre.” (Sacramento Bee)

“James Lee Burke’s 20th Robicheaux novel is arguably the best of his prolific career . . . Burke is at the pinnacle of his literary gifts.” (The Louisville Courier-Journal)

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Product Details

  • Series: Dave Robicheaux
  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (July 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476710767
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476710761
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (960 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,791 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

137 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Paul Rooney on July 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is stunning. When I read "Creole Belle" last year I thought Dave and Cletus had ran their race and it was time for them to be retired but back comes Mr Burke with his, in my opinion, best since "In the Electric Mist...".

In this new thriller all the main characters, Dave, Clete,Molly, Alafair and Clete's daughter Gretchen are living in Montana. Due to circumstances they lock horns with an escaped serial killer, the usual wealthy bad guy and two other extremely interesting additions, an insane rodeo cowboy and his equally strange girlfriend. This all sounds silly the way its laid out by me but it is fantastic.

I haven't deprived myself of sleep to finish a book in a long time but I did with this. One of the most enjoyable things is that we don't get too much of Dave's philosophy on life,the universe and everything and the other characters share almost equal billing.

Its got it all - violence,humour,a really evil villain and the final scenes on the lake front are edge of the seat stuff.

Brilliant stuff and long may it continue.
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Richard Cumming on July 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In this, the 20th Dave Robicheaux book, James Lee Burke is assessing Dave's life and career as well as his own. As Dave reflects on the things that have been important to him; his family and friends, he sounds like he's channelling the author's own personal feelings pouring straight from that imaginary fictional pipeline that leads his readers from Montana to Louisiana.

In this one we have the guys, Dave and Clete, on vacation again in Montana. Dave's daughter Alafair is there. So is Gretchen, the daughter Clete thought that he had lost. As the story opens both daughters are feeling threatened. Their fathers are enraged by the threats and the incompetence and corruption of the local law enforcement authorities. And like a pair of raging grizzly bears Dave and Clete seek their quarry, in this case that turns out to be an escaped serial killer from Kansas named Asa Surrette, a creature so loathsome that the pages where he appears seem to reek with a stench so vile that we feel we might be nearing the gates of Hades.

Nobody writes like Jim Burke. Enjoy.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As its opening paragraphs expressly state, Light of the World is an exploration of evil, a familiar theme in James Lee Burke's novels. It is Dave Robicheaux's tale of how "one of the most wicked creatures on earth made his way into" the lives of Robicheaux's family and friends. Initially, the reader wonders whether the "wicked creature" is a born-again rodeo clown named Wyatt Dixon, the serial killer Asa Surrette (who, according to the FBI, is dead), or some other character who might be channeling Keyser Söze, making the novel a sort of whodunit. In the end, Burke's point is that evil wears many faces. Some evil people enter and leave prison, some enter the worlds of business or politics, some carry a badge. And as the best thriller writers remind us, the boundary between good and evil is often indistinct.

Robicheaux meets Dixon after an arrow sails past the ear of his adopted daughter Alafair while she's jogging in Montana during a family vacation at Albert Hollister's ranch. Alafair soon realizes that someone is stalking her, and she thinks she recognizes Surrette, a psychopath she once interviewed in a maximum security prison for a book she was writing. The stalking coincides with the murder of a seventeen-year-old girl, the adopted granddaughter of a billionaire whose son is a scoundrel.

Burke adds another dimension to the story with the reappearance of Gretchen Horowitz (last seen in Creole Belle), the daughter of Dave's friend Clete Purcel. Sexually abused as a child, Gretchen became a contract killer before renouncing her criminal vocation. Child abuse is clearly evil; whether Gretchen is evil, given her past, Burke leaves for the reader to decide.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sonji Williams on August 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I couldn't wait for this book. Pre-ordered it, and set aside a time to read and relish it. I love reading about Dave, Cletus, Molly, and Alf. But I wonder if Mr. Burke wrote this novel? I missed the "tightness" of his earlier works. Descriptive prose in previous Robicheaux novels enhanced the characterization, the tone, or the setting in the book. The words enhanced the reading experience and allowed us to identify with the characters or the situation. In Light of the World, descriptions were run-on pages, leading nowhere. I finished the book, because I like Robicheaux. But I couldn't give it more stars because there was nothing new under the sun in this novel, and the old stuff was all over the place. I kept putting this one down and remembering later that I had to finish it. Never happened on a Burke book that I read before, but it has with both Creole Bell and Light of the World. It will be interesting to see what's next.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on October 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I have read every book he's written and I'm sorry to say:
All the characters now seem to be running together from book to book. Same other world evil guy. Same despotic rich folks. Same inept police & FBI agents. Same family of good guys making the same bad life choices. Nothing new or interesting. I do however still love his descriptive writing. He does paint a picture in my head. So vivid you can smell the air. But I find myself cringing at all the references and quotes from the myriad of other writers past & present. Each book now seems to be the same story in a different setting. Same bad guys, new names. Book was long and tedious.
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