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In the Moon of Red Ponies    by James Lee Burke Amazon.com order for
In the Moon of Red Ponies
by James Lee Burke
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Is there anything more satisfying than holding a new book by James Lee Burke in your hot little hands? The anticipation alone is rewarding. But, if you're like me, you put off opening that book for just a little while - I know once I start, I will read straight through and that delicious anticipation will be over.

In the Moon of Red Ponies does not disappoint. Burke's settings are sweet enough to set the angels singing ... 'The sun became a red hot spark between two mountains, and a purple shade fell across the valley floor just as the moon rose over the hills in the south. He sat for a long time among the trees, his arms folded across his knees, studying the land, the dirt road that traversed it, the dark green shine on the river winding out of the cottonwoods.' The author's dialogue is true to life; reading it is almost like eavesdropping on the players and being able to contribute to the conversations. His characterizations are the epitome of excellence. I've never known anyone similar to those of whom Burke writes, but they are like old friends or enemies by the time he has finished introducing them, as in 'The driver was middle-aged and wore horn-rimmed, thick glasses and had tiny red and blue veins in his jowls. He was dressed in a tweed coat, brown pants, a tie and white shirt and shined shoes. Except for the intensity and concentration with which he drove the Firebird, he could have been a department store floorwalker or an accountant.'

Though Billy Bob narrates the story, several characters use his voice to push the plot along. It's a different literary move, but works well. Billy Bob Holland confers with the living and with an old friend whom he killed in an accident. Johnny American Horse runs afoul of the law and Holland, a lawyer, puts up his spread as bond for Johnny. Big business, hit men, ecoterrorists, deaths by accident and design, intrigue, torture In the Moon of Red Ponies touches on all of this. The action is all one can want, while the suspense carries through the entire book. I found myself hoping Holland wouldn't lose his ranch but I also didn't want Johnny American Horse to lose his freedom. James Lee Burke has written over twenty books and only gets better if that's possible with each successive one.

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