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Dixie City Jam    by James Lee Burke order for
Dixie City Jam
by James Lee Burke
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 1995 (1994)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

James Lee Burke has created a wonderfully written mystery series set in a small southern Louisiana town not too far from New Orleans and featuring police officer Dave Robicheaux. Burke writes in beautifully evocative language so that the reader can really feel the heat and humidity and smells of the bayou country. Robicheaux is both a sheriff's deputy in New Iberia and a middle-aged recovered alcoholic. He is a Vietnam veteran who was also an English major in college. Robicheaux uses his well-read background to provide memorable descriptions which are especially beautiful when listened to on tape as I did.

The storyline of this novel, as well as past Robicheaux ones, involves the sordid and corrupt underbelly of New Orleans and the surrounding area. Full of strong language and graphic themes, the books are not for those readers who prefer cosy mysteries; one must have a tolerance for evil and depravity in one's fiction.

Dixie City Jam's plot lives up to the usual Burke offering by featuring lost Nazi submarines, modern neo-Nazis, a vigilante killer who removes his victim's hearts and the usual seedy New Orleans lowlife drug lords and mob members. As always Burke depicts vivid characters. In this book they include Hippo Bimstine, a very rich New Orleans Jewish businessman who fears another Holocaust and wants to locate and raise the sub. The revivalist preacher Reverend Oswald Flatt also plays a part, as does the feisty black New Orleans policewoman Lucinda Bergeron and her son Zoot. Most important however is the truly evil Will Buchalter, a neo-Nazi leader who is also after the sub.

Dave is drawn into this - he had once seen the sub during his college scuba diving days and now everyone wants him to re-locate it. Buchalter intrudes on the peace and calm of his life with wife Bootsie and daughter Alafair with increasingly violent actions. The reader can really feel the tension increase as Buchalter continues to invade their lives, so that Dave reluctantly becomes involved. Along the way, his old New Orleans police partner, and now PI, Clete Purcell also becomes involved (Purcell is a continuing and very colorful character in the series).

This story seemed even darker than previous Robicheaux mysteries. When Burke periodically retreats from the cesspool of violence and corruption to Dave's peaceful (at least at first) home life it is a welcome relief, if only temporary. However, the book is so well-plotted and the characters and settings so memorable that it is definitely worth reading. I can only digest one Burke each year or so due to their dark nature, but I always eventually return to get another dose of the author's wonderful use of language.

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