Crusader’s Cross

Crusader's Cross
Crusader's Cross

by James Lee Burke; narrated by Will Patton

Crusader’s Cross is another Dave Robichaux novel, the one before Tin Roof Blowdown, I believe. It’s only the second of the series I’ve read, but delightful still. The novel focuses on two cases: the 30-year-old disappearance of Dave’s brother’s hooker girlfriend and a series of murders occurring in and around New Orleans. The book has lots of good twists and turns, with Robichaux’s alcoholism and his Vietnam-haunted past coloring events. Will Patton does a fine job with the narration, rendering excellent mix of voices for the different characters. I particularly like the voice for Clete.

Some other thoughts:

  • Burke’s rendering of Louisiana crime has a realistic feel to it, like Carl Hiaasen’s depiction of Florida corruption. It’s a skanky world in Burke’s books.
  • As in the other book I read, Burke uses lots of great analogies as he describes the world, mixing personal observations with taut physical descriptions and evocative characters.
  • This book does a lot to help show how war defines a person’s experience for the rest of their lives. There’s a moment when Dave thinks he sees something but turns out to be mistaken. He describes the worry as being like when you see a guy in the elephant grass, but then he isn’t there.
  • One of the subtexts of this book is the Nancy Grace-style expose reporting and the harm it does to people. The reporter is one of the key suspects in the book and thus we sure want him to get his comeuppance. I can’t help but reflect on the fact that the little people steamrolled by big media in day-to-day affairs rarely get the vengeance this book offers Dave. (Nor the vengeance wrought in a recent episode of Leverage against a similar character.)

Unlike Tin Roof Blowdown, which has a fairly self-explanatory name in its depiction of a crime that occurred during Katrina, Crusader’s Cross comes to the plot a bit more obliquely. [spoiler perhaps] I see a couple readings. First, Dave refuses to give up investigating Ida’s death. This causes many of the troubles from the book, and is suggests a kind of foolish quest. Second, at one point Dave ponders how people doing things they thought were good often brought terrible problems down on their heads. Crusaders brought robes and gold home, but also plague-infested rats. You could also point to a third interpretation, that the patriarch of the villainous family was an honorable criminal, and thus he was like a crusader (killing people and yet “noble”). And because he bore the consequences of his actions, it was his cross to bear? Oh hell, I don’t know.

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