“The New Iberia Blues” is James Lee Burke’s 22nd book in the Dave Robicheaux series. It’s a crime fiction novel full of twists and injustices. The novel includes ritual murders, corruption in the Hollywood film industry, the mafia, a hit man and a Texan prison escapee—its political and social commentaries make it a contemporary novel.
The story begins with Detective Dave Robicheaux going to visit Hollywood director, Desmond Cormier, a local boy who made it big in Hollywood 25 years after leaving Louisiana. Detective Robicheaux met Cormier when he was a boy. Cormier was a mixed blood Chitimacha Indian, self-conscious of his racial background who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood director.
Cormier still owns a home at Cypremort Point, Louisiana. He is in Louisiana filming his latest movie and his actor friend Antoine Butterworth is staying with him.
Detective Robicheaux responds to three 911 calls from a woman screaming near Cypremort Point. The detective finds a green tennis shoe and decides to investigate. Both Desmond and Antoine deny hearing anything, but they invite Robicheaux to use a telescope to scan the area. It is then that Robicheaux notices a large wooden cross bobbing in the Southwest Pass with a body attached to it.
When the coast guard retrieves the body, they discover it’s a woman. She been crucified and is wearing a metal chain around her ankle, typical of the Cajun people of south Louisiana, who wore such an apparatus to ward off the gris-gris, bad fortune.
Detective Robicheaux’s former partner and friend Clete Purcell reads about the murder and contacts Robicheaux with information that may or may not be relevant. Clete had witnessed a Texan escape convict jump from a boxcar into the Mermentau River. The convict, Hugo Tillinger, knew the murder victim, Lucinda Arceneaux.
As Robicheaux and Purcell continue working the Lucinda murder case, each lead ends up with another ritualistic murder. The bodies pile up; the one commonality is that each is staged as a figure on a Tarot card. The more Detective Robicheaux and Clete dig, the more complicated the case becomes. What is the connection with the murders and Desmond Cormier who happens to be having his film being financed by Saudi Arabia and the mob? Throw in some flashbacks to Viet Nam and ghostly encounters with people from Robicheauz’s past and you have a dark, gloomy haunted crime novel.
“The New Iberia Blues” is a story of good versus evil, a story of knowledge versus ignorance and a story of human behavior. This character driven book is full of dialogue that helps make it a quick, easy read. Even though it is the 22nd book in a series, it can be read as a standalone. This was my first Dave Robicheaux novel and I had no problem following the characters or story.