“Cadillac Jukebox” (1996) was the ninth novel published by American author James Lee Burke in his New York Times bestselling Dave Robicheaux series. Like the earlier books of the series, and most of the series’ works to follow, the book, a Southern noir, police procedural/mystery, is set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, more or less home country for Burke, who was born in Houston, Texas, in 1936, and grew up on the Texas-Louisiana gulf coast. Aaron Crown has spent decades in Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison, sentenced for the murder of the state’s most famous black civil rights leader. Nobody’s too bent out of shape about that: Crown’s family were emigrants from the northern part of the state, shiftless timber people, possibly members of the Ku Klux Klan. Then Crown starts protesting his innocence to Robicheaux, now a detective with the New Iberia Sheriff’s office, and Robicheaux starts worrying that the filthy, smelly, uneducated redneck has perhaps been scapegoated for the greater society’s sins. But as Robicheaux takes an interest in Crown, strange things start happening. Buford LaRose, scion of a wealthy old Southern family, an academic running -- successfully – for governor, and author of the book that sent Crown to prison, begins taking an interest in Robicheaux; he offers him the job of head of the state police. Buford’s beautiful, hot-to-trot wife Karyn, a former flame of Robicheaux’s, also is suddenly paying a lot of attention to the detective. Documentary filmmakers trying to prove Crown’s innocence are murdered. And New Orleans wiseguys start coming out of the woodwork. Of course, Clete Purcel is around to help, his former partner on the New Orleans Police Department, an overweight, heavy- drinking, brawling, heavily-scarred survivor of the city’s tough Irish Channel neighborhood. So is a female cop, Helen Soileau, whom, like Purcell, we will continue to see a lot of in later books in the series. Dave Robicheaux is of Cajun ancestry, and is still reliving the nightmare of his service in Vietnam. He has a drinking problem, and a tendency to violence. In addition to working for the sheriff, he still owns and operates a boat rental and bait business, while living in the house in which he was actually born. He is assisted in the operation of his business by a black man, Batist, whom we’ve met before, and will see again. Robicheaux is, by this point, on his third wife, Bootsie. His quietly, illegally adopted daughter, an ethnic Hispanic, whom he’s named Alafair, apparently the better to confuse his readers, as Burke’s real life daughter, Alafair Burke, is also writing mysteries these days, has morphed into a fairly ordinary American teenager, and she’s got her pet, the three-legged raccoon Tripod, whom we’ve met before and will meet again. Burke is still writing with energy, passion and power. He’s still giving us the odd grotesque character, a sure hallmark of Southern fiction. However, there’s little discussion of Robicheaux’s father and mother by now, no World War II German sub in the Gulf, and the detective’s half-brother Jimmie, who associated with gangsters, is mentioned only briefly, in one sentence, as having been ordered shot by a New Orleans gangster. But people who’ve known the detective long time still call him by the nickname “Streak,” for a supposed skunk white streak in his black hair – that Jimmie also had-- that’s meant to reflect childhood malnutrion. Some of Burke’s characters are now beginning to resemble each other in the many Robicheaux books: the New Orleans gangster Robicheaux has known since childhood. The handsome, arrogant, ruthless rich man of good family who doesn’t care whom he hurts in acquiring his great wealth. The beautiful hot-to-trot wife of the rich man, with whom Robicheaux has a romantic history. The dangerous Southerner. The hit man from Brooklyn. Burke tells us that, as both the New Orleans and Brooklyn accents grow out of the Irish accent, the accents of these two cities resemble each other. And the outcomes some of these characters meet are also beginning to resemble each other. Obviously, at this point, eight books into the successful Robicheaux series, Burke is beginning to allow his work to reflect his inner needs, as best-selling writers often do. More than anything else, seems to me, in Burke’s work, we’ll enjoy some of the most beautiful, knowledgeable writing ever committed to paper about the flora, fauna, geography, and human occupants of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, now so much in the news. Burke attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute; later received B. A. and M. A. degrees from the University of Missouri in 1958 and 1960 respectively. Over the years he worked as a landman for Sinclair Oil Company, a pipeliner, land surveyor, newspaper reporter, college English professor, social worker on Skid Row in Los Angeles, clerk for the Louisiana Employment Service, and instructor in the U. S. Job Corps. His work has twice been awarded an Edgar for Best Crime Novel of the Year. At least eight of his novels, including the more recent JOLIE BLON’S BOUNCE, and PURPLE CANE ROAD have been New York Times bestsellers. "Cadillac Jukebox" has its moments, but many readers may find it deja vu all over again.