Thursday, March 5, 2020

Review of Dixie City Jam by James Lee Burke (1994, Phoenix)

Dixie City Jam is the seventh novel in the Dave Robicheaux series following the cases of a maverick cop who revels in the underbelly of New Orleans and Louisiana. In this outing, he becomes entangled in a race between a local Jewish businessman and a group of neo-Nazis to salvage a submarine that was sunk off the America coast in the Second World War, as well as getting caught in the middle of a battle between his ex-cop partner, Irish and Italian mobsters, and between local cops. It’s fair to say there’s a lot of moving parts, with never a dull moment, as Burke keeps the story hurtling along its dark and violent path. Pretty much all the characters are battle-hardened and used to getting their way, which leads to a fairly testosterone-saturated tale, with a female cop taking on the same kind of persona, while the other women are either black widows or victims. That’s all to be expected given it’s a hallmark of the series, along with its engaging, vivid prose. However, what shifted me out of the story was Robicheaux, who is supposedly obsessed with catching the man who is stalking and sexually assaulted his wife, taking out his frustration by raping her while she sleeps. Robicheaux breaks rules and skirts the law to administer justice, and he’s complex and conflicted, but he’s supposedly driven by a need to protect his family from darkness, and sexually assaulting a woman who has suffered sexual assault felt out of character with a significant line crossed that was never once revisited. After that, my faith in Robicheaux waived and as the tale became more convoluted and less believable as it unfolded my enjoyment of the story tailed away. As it reached the end, the denouement felt somewhat flat, being well telegraphed and linear. Overall, a dark, gritty, tense and fast moving tale that keeps the reader hooked, yet felt too overloaded with contrived plot threads.

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