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Tin Roof Blowdown, The


									“The Tin Roof Blowdown,” (2007) is the 16th novel published by American author
James Lee Burke in his mighty New York Times bestselling Detective 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, and grew up
on the Texas-Louisiana gulf coast.

This time around, Burke has collected and disciplined himself enough to deal with the
way Hurricane Katrina, a storm with greater impact than the atomic bomb that destroyed
the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945, destroyed the Gulf Coast, and particularly
Southern Louisiana/New Orleans, in August 2005. And, I expect, this book has more
than satisfied the many of his fans who had been waiting for it. The book is
overwhelming, full of Burke’s, and Robicheaux’s, pain and anger brought on by Katrina
and its aftermath. After all, Burke has used this series for many years to show his love for
the land, the flora and fauna, and the cultures of New Orleans, and it is his reaction to the
hurricane’s devastation of the city that dominates the book.

There are mysteries, of course. New Iberia detective Robicheaux has been
deployed to the Big Easy in its agony. In its post-apocalyptic landscape, he
must hunt looters and vigilantes, and find two serial rapists, and a
morphine-addicted priest.

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 have been New York Times bestsellers.

Burke delivers energy and power, and, to quote the great 20th century poet
William Butler Yeats, passionate intensity, in this work. I cannot, of
course, read every book published, but I have a hard time imagining one,
fiction or nonfiction, that can summon up Hurricane Katrina and its
horrifying aftermath, brought upon the city as much by incompetence,
indifference, and greed, as by the raw power of nature, with a more
passionate intensity.

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