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Last Car to Elysian Fields: A Dave Robicheaux Novel Hardcover – September 30, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 251 customer reviews
Book 13 of 20 in the Robicheaux Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Homicide detective Dave Robicheaux is pitted against a handsome, urbane war hero of a bad guy instead of the typical obscenely grotesque villain in this latest installment of Burke's stellar series, set in New Iberia, La. It's a shift in adversaries that forces Robicheaux to take a different tack than his usual uncontrolled tilting at the windmills of elusive justice. As in many of Burke's novels (A Stained White Radiance; In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead), current felonies are tied to a crime from the past. Here, Dave's friend Father Jimmie Dolan is being stalked by Irish hit man Max Coll; linked to this intrigue is the story of blues singer Junior Crudup, who entered the hell of Angola Penitentiary in the 1950s and was never heard from again. In present-day New Orleans, three teens die in a fiery crash after buying drinks at a drive-by daiquiri stand. Porn star Gunner Ardoin takes a beating from Dave's sidekick, Clete Purcel, who wreaks his usual havoc. Mysterious lady cop Clotile Arceneaux keeps popping in with advice, and a minor thug, Jumpin' Merchie Flannigan, is married to Robicheaux's old girlfriend Theodosha. These are just a scant few of the characters and subplots that thicken the deep and complex gumbo of Burke's story. The writing is beautiful, as always, laced with the author's signature descriptions: "the sepia-tinted light in the trees and on the bayou seemed to emanate from the earth rather than the sky." This is an outstanding entry in an excellent series.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Change comes slowly to Cajun country, but it comes just the same. Dave Robicheaux, hero of Burke's long-running series, has been struggling with that fact for years, watching his beloved New Iberia invaded by everything from mobsters to Wal-Mart. This time the change is more personal. Dave's second wife, Bootsie, has died from lupus; his daughter is away at college; and his house on Bayou Teche has burned down. Adrift, Robicheaux is even more of a loose cannon than usual, and all it takes to light his fuse is the death of three teenagers, killed in a car accident after being served illegally at a drive-by dacquiri stand. Soon Dave is knee-deep in a murky swamp of tangled motives and secret history that extends from the dead girls through a maverick priest, a crazed assassin, and a blues guitarist who disappeared from Angola Prison in the '40s. It is the musician's story that gives the novel its freshness, as Burke seamlessly connects past and present while re-creating the horrors of the legendary Louisiana prison farm and evoking the power of the doomed guitarist's art. Change is inevitable, Robicheaux keeps learning, and, no, it isn't 1950 anymore. And yet, the past isn't dead, either, as voices from the grave keep singing to us, blind to the shadow of Wal-Mart. Burke is, above all, an elegiac poet; his sweeping, lyrical sentences give life to the dead and make living worthwhile for the Robicheaux in all of us. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743245423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743245425
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (251 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,061,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Last Car to Elysian Fields is my second James Lee Burke mystery in a row, and I'm afraid that I've been infected by the Dave Robicheaux bug. I won't be happy until I've read all fourteen books in this series.

In Elysian Fields, Robicheaux is a detective in the Iberia sheriff's department. He has a host of demons that he's battling (several ex-wives, a recent personal loss, and white knuckled abstinence from alcohol-just to name a few). But he is also juggling quite a few cases, and not all of them are "official." The case of a disappearing bluesman from Angola prison is over 50 years old. Also on his plate are the deaths of three underage teenagers who purchased alcohol at a daiquiri bar, pornography and meth ring, a priest friend who was brutally assaulted, an electrician doing shoddy work, a granddaughter who has been cheated out of her grandfather's land, and illegal dumping by chemical companies. Add to that a crazed hit man from Miami, and a bunch of dead bodies, and Robicheaux's life becomes even more complicated. Sometimes it's difficult to figure out who has a hit on who.

Burke excels when it comes to his characters. Helen Solileau, is Robicheaux's boss and a woman of great insight and patience. Robicheaux tests her in so many ways, but Solileau knows that Robicheaux is a good but unorthodox cop and she tries to give him a long leash. But my very favorite character is Robicheaux's best friend and former partner, Cletus Purcel. Cletus is now a PI and part-time bounty hunter who spreads mayhem and chaos in his wake.
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Format: Hardcover
James Lee Burke creates another dark mystery in the heat of the Louisiana swamps. In this latest Dave Robicheaux tale, the death of a teenage driver turns into a series of twists and switchbacks that lead to a series of murders and cover-ups from decades ago through to the present. The story involves a hit man for the IRA, pornographic film stars, a former lover, blues musicians, along with a military hero using his past as a facade for who he really has become. The layers of mystery are unwrapped slowly, each layer uncovered reveals new clues and new directions and new crimes to investigate for Dave and his podjo Clete.
I have two criticisms of this novel. The first is that Robicheaux is dealing with a major loss in his life and we see that only in the aftermath, which feels like either a slight to the reader or an inability to deal with it by the author in a believable manner. The second is that although I am aware of the authors political beliefs, they seem to predominate this novel like never before. Even with these two situations, Burke comes through with an amazing puzzle of a novel.
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Format: Hardcover
New Iberia, Louisiana homicide detective Dave Robicheaux and his friend private investigator Clete Purcel rough up former porn movie star Gunner Ardoin. Dave and Clete were retaliating for Gunner's beating up New Orleans priest Father Jimmie Dolan. Gunner gets back at the duo for their assault by suing them.
Meanwhile hitman Max Coll stalks Father Jimmie. Apparently there is a nebulous connection to 1951 Angola Penitentiary where blues singer Junior Crudup was sent before vanishing. Then there is the link to three teens dying in a DUI incident. Thus Dave has a lot on his plate, jurisdiction not withstanding. However, his typical two-fisted approach will not bring down Castille LeJeune, who is the alleged power behind the scenes of all these seemingly unrelated incidents.
LAST CAR TO ELYSIAN FIELDS is the usual brutal but exciting look at the underbelly of society from James Lee Burke. If the story line sounds a bit disjointed that is because it is. Dave remains an intriguing wild man who does not worry about losing his job as he metes out street justice as few characters do. Fans of Dave will appreciate this rowdy ride while those who prefer a more gentile or just a straightforward plot will want to pass rather than wait to see how the subplots finally tie together.
Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
Another truly great novel from James Lee Burke, on par with all of his others. What truly distinguishes Burke's novels is his gorgeous writing style--he truly evokes a sense of place and you can almost smell the bayou as he writes about it. His descriptions of people are equally good--I got a very clear picture of each character he described. If you have never read James Lee Burke, TRY HIM! You won't be disappointed. (Oh, and the story is great!)
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Format: Hardcover
Describing New Orleans as "an outdoor mental asylum located on top of a giant sponge," Burke makes the city itself a character in this study of power and justice, murder and mayhem. Once again, Dave Robicheaux is the local homicide detective who tries to sort out crimes and bring evil-doers to justice, as he has done in previous Burke novels. This time, however, we see Robicheaux as a darker, more vengeful investigator, a man willing to do whatever is necessary to bring guilty parties to justice within this notoriously corrupt political and judicial system. Alone in the city, and without the family support system which previously "humanized" him, he is now a man with nothing to lose.
Accompanying Fr. Jimmie Dolan though Toxic Alley, a wetlands area where waste disposal contractors have poisoned the groundwater and sickened dozens of young black children with their illegal dumping, Robicheaux visits the granddaughter of Junior Crudup, a blues singer and guitarist from the 1950s, who disappeared in Angola Penitentiary. Determined to discover what happened to him, Robicheaux also wants to know who is responsible for the recent beating Fr. Dolan, the Catholic priest. While this plot is unfolding, three seventeen-year-old girls die in a car crash, shortly after stopping at an illegal "drive-by daiquiri store." The manager of the store soon shows up dead, and his connections to other, supposedly legitimate local businessmen come under scrutiny. The business of pornography and drugs bring Mafia hitmen into the city, and soon bedlam breaks out, as the local police, county police, state undercover agents, and the FBI all lay claim to investigation.
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