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Bitterroot    by James Lee Burke order for
by James Lee Burke
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Pocket, 2002 (2001)
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* *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

This novel is set in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, and features Billy Bob Holland, former Texas Ranger (the author also writes about David Robichaux, ex-New Orleans cop). Billy Bob sees the ghost of a Texas Ranger friend whom he accidentally killed, whereas David battles alcoholism and memories of Vietnam.

In Bitterroot, the daughter of Billy Bob's friend Doc Voss, is raped and brutalised by three members of a biker gang linked to a right wing militia. One of these bikers is subsequently burned to death, one shot dead, and the third drowned. Much of the action of the story revolves around the search for whoever carried out these killings. There are many colourful subsidiary characters, including the local sheriff; pschyopath Wyatt Dixon, recently released on parole and sworn to kill Billy Bob; an eccentric novelist Xavier Girard, and his actress wife; Billy Bob's son Lucas; and an Indian girl he tries to befriend, Sue Lynn Big Medicine.

The story is full of action including the gang rape and murders, with other assorted mayhem. Unfortunately the action is interrupted too often and too tediously by Billy Bob's soul searching. Also I found the book depressing. It contains not one wholly honest or attractive character, with the exception of Sue Lynn (who is unfortunately the epitome of the born loser) and the ineffectual Lucas. Overall I prefer David Robichaux to Billy Bob Holland.

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