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finished The Tin Roof Blowdown

Burke sure does know how to be poetic. Check the final paragraph of the epilogue, which I have decided to include here in its entirety (not really so much of a spoiler at all because it is Robicheaux’s *fantasy* ending):

“In my fantasy, I see Bertrand far out on the water, pulling on the oars, his arms pumped with his task, the ruined city of New Orleans becoming smaller and smaller in the distance, a great darkness spreading across the sky just after sunset. The blisters on his hands turn into wounds that stain the wood of the oars with his blood. As the wind rises and the water becomes even blacker, he sees hundreds if not thousands of lights swimming below the surface. Then he realizes the light are not lights at all. They have the shape of broken Communion wafers and the luminosity that radiates from them lies in the very fact they have been rejected and broken. But in a way he cannot understand, Bertrand knows that somehow all of them are safe now, including himself, inside a pewter vessel that is as big as the hand of God.”

I call that rhythmic, lyrical and hopeful, and even I, with my failure to grasp biblical allusions, can see the significance of blood staining the wooden oars.

I find it notable that Robicheaux deals somewhat sympathetically with a character who is a rapist. Some might be offended, I suppose (especially if you take my statement straightforwardly, which would be a mistake), but it’s not simple at all. Robicheaux is disgusted with this individual and the pain he’s caused. But in a very realistically, human, ambivalent way, he recognizes that we are all at least a little bit a product of our environments, and that perhaps everything is at least a little bit relative. The character in question makes some form of amends, at least within the structure of his own understanding. It’s complicated. I’m not particularly sympathetic with rapists myself (!!) but I appreciate that Burke portrays everything to do with human nature and sin and redemption as being complex and not black-and-white (no pun intended, in a book definitely charged with racial tension as all Burke’s books are – probably unavoidable considering the setting).

I confess that Cadillac Jukebox let me down just a bit, but The Tin Roof Blowdown has been so outstanding that I think I’m ready to make a James Lee Burke crusade like I did on Michael Connelly a few months back – and try and read everything he’s written.

But then again, there are so many good books in the world…

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