Friday, July 8, 2011
"Old age can't be cured. You can only...utter a ...swan song." Renee Winegarten
"Swan Peak," is a novel that displays James Lee Burke's rich character portrayals, detailed descriptions of the natural surroundings in western Montana and a suspenseful story that packs a punch.
Dave Robicheaux, his wife, Molly, and best friend Clete Purcell, are on vacation in Montana after they had experienced the back to back devastation of hurricanes Rita and Katrina in New Orleans.
When a pair of double murders take place and the local sheriff seems overwhelmed, Dave and Clete offer their services.
Ridley Wellstone, a wealthy Texan, wants to drill test wells for oil and natural gas on the Swan River. He accuses Dave and Clete of working for those who want to stop him. Ridley lives on a ranch with his brother, Lyle and Lyle's wife, country and western singer, Jamie Sue.
A parallel story involves Jamie Sue's former boyfriend, Jimmy Dale Greenwood, who is the father of their child. Jimmy Dale is in jail for a minor offense and faces an intolerable situation involving Troyce Nix, a prison guard. Jimmy eventually cannot take what has been happening and escapes jail and heads north to Jamie Sue.
As we find out more of the people who have been murdered and what is going on at the Wellstone ranch, we see why Dave Robicheaux is such a popular character. He is humble and not perfect, being an alcoholic who attends meetings regularly. However, he is also a protector of the poor and less fortunate people who are being taken advantage of by wealthy opportunists who don't think they have to answer to the law.
Dave's sidekick, Clete, is a big hearted, dedicated Viet Nam vet who has a tendency to let his emotions get out of control. Yet, Dave calls him the bravest man he knows and a more loyal friend could not be found.
With the contemporary theme of this novel, the excellent characters and plot twists, "Swan Peak," shows the author at the height of his writing excellence.