Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Recent Reads

The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke: Burke's great knight-errant of southern Louisiana, Detective Dave Robicheaux of the New Iberia Sheriff's Department is trying to figure out the murder of two young women found dead in the swampland. Compounding this are personal problems involving his friends and family, pulling him in different directions. By the time he realizes that all of these threads tie together, he is facing more danger than ever. This remains one of my favorite series in all of fiction, but there seemed to be an element missing this time around. Almost like Robicheaux-by-numbers, this book plugged in all of the expected elements of the series: friendship and family love, the beauty of the Louisiana environment, and the oppression of the weak and scared by the powerful and wealthy, and of course, violence and its repercussions. The thing is we've been down this road so many times before in this series that no matter how beautifully written the prose and how evocative the setting and dialogue, it seemed that we were treading over very familiar ground. But despite that, the book does build to a harrowing if unresolved conclusion, and Dave Robicheaux remains one of the most compelling and conflicted heroes in American fiction. I have a hard time believing that this is the end of the series, it would be fascinating for Burke to write a novel about the wake of the Deepwater-Horizon disaster especially since Robicheaux's fictional father was killed in an oil rig blowout. The Glass Rainbow - amazon.com

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen: The superstar and rehab industry is low-hanging fruit for satirists and Hiaasen crafts a nice send-up of the whole culture of fame with his latest novel. Cherry Pye is a narcissistic pop star on the way down, addicted to never ending partying and self-destruction. Managed by her money grubbing philandering parents, she's down to her last chance at stardom, as she prepares to release her new CD and go on tour. Dogging her is sleazy photographer Claude, who wants to cash in by taking photographs of Cherry in embarrassing positions. What Claude doesn't know is that Cherry's parents employ a body double to impersonate Cherry when she is in rehab. So when Claude moves into a little kidnapping, he has no idea what he is getting into. This was a funny and breezy book that nevertheless says a lot about the star obsessed culture we live in today. From the greedy, manipulative and shallow agents, parents and media to the star struck fans, no one is left unscathed. It's great to see one of Hiaasen's greatest characters, former governor Clint Tyree make a return appearance, because that means that mayhem with an ecological message in on the way. This was a well written and funny satire and makes perfect beach reading for thoughtful people with a sense of humor. Star Island - amazon.com

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