Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Murky Tale of Bayou Intrigue 'Purple Cane' Satisfying, Troubling

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Murky Tale of Bayou Intrigue 'Purple Cane' Satisfying, Troubling

Article excerpt

Title: Purple Cane Road

Author: James Lee Burke

Data: Doubleday 341 pages, $24.95

Review by Dan Scanlan

New Iberia cop Dave Robicheaux has a strange life.

He used to be a cop in the New Orleans Police Department, but his drinking killed those prospects, so he moved down the bayou to the New Iberia area to be a cop there. Then he opened a boat rental and bait business next to his house.

He hoped his life with wife, Bootsie, and daughter, Alafair, and a friend, former NOPD homicide detective-turned-private investigator, Clete Purcel, would turn normal.

But then Vachel Carmouche, the state's former executioner, was hacked to death by Letty Labiche in his old mansion. And Robicheaux started hearing rumors that crooked NOPD cops killed his own mother, who was turning tricks. Oh yes, then poor Dave got in the way of hit man Johnny Remata, who was secretly stalking Alafair.

Such is the steamy bayou world of Purple Cane Road. The title comes from the road that Robicheaux grew up on with his mother, who disappeared when he was a child.

In Burke's world, the weather is as much a character as the humans, constantly charged with electricity as storms move in off the Gulf and rain blows, waves ripping up docks as the unsettled characters in the book rip up lives.

Robicheax is an honorable man, on the wagon and going to AA meetings. His wife is the perfect helpmate for his drinking problems, but she has some secrets in her past that boil up during this tale. And, his friend Purcel is as much a drinker as Robicheaux was before he climbed on the wagon.

As Robicheax and Purcel are rousting a pimp, the suspect blurts out what he claims he knows about Robicheaux's mother's death. He says she was murdered, drowned in a swamp by crooked cops. It was 30 years ago, but the pimp claims the perpetrators are still on the job. …

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