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Rain Gods: A Novel Hardcover – July 14, 2009

Book 2 of 3 in the Hackberry Holland Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

MWA Grandmaster Burke spins a tale replete with colorful prose and epic confrontations in his second novel to feature smalltown Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland (after Lay Down My Sword and Shield). An anonymous phone call leads Holland, a Korean vet who survived a POW camp, to the massacre and burial site of nine Thai women, a crime that brings FBI and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials running. As a slew of bad guys relocated from New Orleans after Katrina grapple for advantage in new territory, mercurial killer Preacher Jack Collins finds plenty of work. Pete Flores, a possible witness to the massacre, and his girlfriend are targeted by Collins for elimination, and by the FBI for bait. Holland must protect the hapless Flores and his girl from both. Three strong female characters complement the full roster of sharply drawn lowlifes. The battle of wills and wits between Holland and Collins delivers everything Burke's fans expect. (July)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics have nothing but praise for Burke's latest Hackberry Holland novel. An author with a deep regional feel for parts of the United States -- including Texas and Louisiana -- Burke aptly portrays "a range war in Southwest Texas -- a pitched battle between gangs of displaced bad guys, fighting among themselves for the new territory against the outmatched locals" (New York Times Book Review). He revisits themes of sin and redemption, but adds unusual layers of depth to his story with a keen exploration of human flaws and true characterizations. Preacher Jack intrigued critics to no end, while even minor characters were wholly compelling. Burke's fans will relish this fast-paced, tense, and harrowing addition to his oeuvre.
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Featured Author: James Lee Burke
Read an excerpt from James Lee Burke's Rain Gods, and explore more from the bestselling author at Amazon's James Lee Burke Page [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439128243
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439128244
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,029,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

Hackberry Holland, like all Burke's "good guys" is a partly-flawed human being wrestling with inner devils.
Edward Reynolds
Great writing: Burke writes descriptive prose that is unparallelled in crime fiction and quite frankly, could rival a lot of our best literary writers.
J. Norburn
I really enjoy the development of the characters as well as the great descriptions of the scenes in the book!!
alice nemeth-nivault

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on August 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
And, for the most part, succeeds. If Burke doesn't twist and torture and then so beautifully reassemble passages in McCarthy's unique version of the English language, he is certainly no rookie when it comes to spinning his own brand of moody, atmospheric prose never too far a field from Faulkner's steamy bayous and weighty themes - but decidedly more readable. In the spellbinding "Rain Gods", Burke moves west from Louisiana's delta and Dave Robicheaux's perpetual but lovable gloom to a Texas southern border town where Korean War veteran Hackberry Holland is sheriff. "Hack" stumbles upon the shallow churchyard grave of nine illegal alien women, setting off a deliciously convoluted mystery/thriller featuring a rich field - rich even by Burke's lofty standards - of characters ranging from the mildly flawed to the unrepentantly deranged. Like Robicheaux, Sheriff Holland is haunted by ghosts from his past - hefting a trunk full of baggage that carries the nightmares of North Korean POW camps, the guilt from days of alcoholism and debauchery, and sorrow over the loss of his second wife. Holland pursues his own brand of justice battling these internal demons as well as a host of those in real flesh and blood - from the serial-killing psycho "Preacher" to three-letter government agencies not afraid to sacrifice the mostly innocent to bag the bigger game.

Like McCarthy's "No Country For Old Men", "Rain Gods" deals with the drug trade across the border, and like "No Country", it is brutal, violent, and realistic. Burke, always the champion of the poor working class and never afraid to proselytize, lays it on thick here, though without Bush in the White House to cast as the villain, the targets of his righteous but sincere venom is a bit confused.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By T. Slaven VINE VOICE on August 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There is much to admire and lots to like in the writing of James Lee Burke. At its best, his prose can be poetic and evocative. When he doesn't descend to favorite tropes (for example, "pardners" and "swinging dicks") or let himself slip over the perilous edge of metaphor ("[he] ate a pattern of buckshot as wide as his hand and watched his brains splatter across the side panel of his truck"), he uses the language well and is a pleasure to read.

If I have a criticism, and I do, it's that he leaves his stories ragged. Too many characters are allowed to bow in, often for no seeming purpose, and subplots head off in their own directions like pets that have escaped their leashes. It sometimes seems that Mr. Burke just can't tame the writing beast that lives within him.

Rain Gods is a case in point. There are three or four sets of bad guys when one or two would suffice. There are several layers of cops, at odds with one another. Another bunch of characters is groomed for unlikely heroism. Sadly, I really don't feel that I came to know and understand these people through the long course of the book.

The novel suffers in comparison to Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, a comparison that is inescapable. Both novels are centered on an old-time Texas sheriff with a past he is trying in some way to live down. An innocent and his woman are fleeing pursuit by a single-minded avenger. Border traffickers litter the landscape with bodies. The bete noir of Rain Gods, a villain called Preacher Jack Collins, is one part McCarthy's Chugre and two parts Judge Holden from Blood Meridian. The story of both novels is one of moral entropy.

But where Burke is expansive, McCarthy is spare.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I always look forward to a new book in James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series each July. So I was a bit disappointed to discover that Rain Gods is not part of this series. But it didn't take me long to enjoy it--every bit as much as Robicheaux. In fact, I think it was a good change for him. Although it takes place in Texas, it's not part of his Billy Bob Holland series, either (although Holland plays a very small role in this book).

The time is post-Katrina, and a number of displaced New Orleans crime figures find themselves relocated to Texas. These guys are into everything from drug smuggling and prostitution to murder for hire. Sheriff Hackberry Holland gets an anonymous phone call about nine Asian women buried in a mass grave. Hack has had a checkered history, battling the demons caused by his time in a Korean POW camp. After spending time as a lawyer, he finds himself as county sheriff later in life. That's not necessarily a bad thing. He is told that "you're stubborn as a cinder block." In Rain Gods, Hack tries to juggle a lot of balls. While Hack is trying to solve the crime, the FBI and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) have their own agenda while a hit-man named Jack "Preacher" Collins is trying to kill anyone associated with the Asian mass-murder.

Preacher is perhaps one of the most fearsome villains in fiction. Thinking himself the right hand of God, his code of ethics is chilling. Yet, he often does the right (and unpredictable) thing. It is intriguing to see him match wits with a number of characters, including Hack. As Hack says, "If certain things we do or witness don't leave a stone bruise on the soul, there's something wrong with our humanity.
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