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Crusader's Cross: A David Robicheaux Novel    by James Lee Burke order for
Crusader's Cross
by James Lee Burke
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Followers of James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux will find a few surprises in Crusader's Cross, as well as familiar series characters - the sleuth's half-brother Jimmie Robicheaux, the parish's first female deputy sheriff Helen Soileau, and Dave's best friend Clete Purcell. As always, the author's inimitable narration weaves in and out with reminiscences of Dave's family life, bouts with alcohol, the passing of his wife Bootsie, and the pleasures of the landscape ... 'The mist-covered Louisiana coastline fell away behind us, and we left the westward alluvial flow of the Mississippi and entered the smoky green, rain-dimpled roll of the Gulf, flying fish sailing across our bow like sleek, salmon-colored birds.'

On his deathbed, a former classmate of Dave's confesses that one of his uncles took part in the abduction of a girl in Galveston in the 1950's. The young woman was prostitute Ida Durbin, whom Jimmie loved. As Dave exits the hospital, he is stopped by two deputy sheriffs questioning what Troy told him, and it doesn't stop there. The story re-opens ties to a powerful crime family, the Chalons - ruthless son Valentine, a TV station owner; his sister Honoria, a disturbed, yet alluring individual; and family head Raphael Chalons. Jimmie never married. He is now owner of two restaurants, and dubbed 'Jimmie the Gent'. Hearing that Ida may still be alive, he comes back into town to help Dave. Deputy sheriff Helen gives Dave his badge back as the momentum builds in the search for a serial predator, who has taken the lives of over thirty women. Clete (who now has his own investigation agency) and Dave, referred to as the 'Bobbsey Twins from Homicide', work the different cases on the table - a serial killer, a search for Ida and her original pimp, leads to corrupt cops, and Mafia underground activities. Dave slips off the wagon and comes under suspicion of murder - and he falls in love.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first-time exposure to James Lee Burke, even though I found insertions of Dave's reminiscences a little heavy in places, making for disruption of the action. However, I recommend Crusader's Cross as an all-around commanding read, enriched by thoughtful musings like, 'hospice personnel and psychologists maintain that human beings lose body weight at the moment of death ... as though the escape of the soul leaves behind a cavity swirling with atoms.'

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