cover image The Jealous Kind

The Jealous Kind

James Lee Burke. Simon & Schuster, $27.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5011-0720-7

Raging teenage hormones, gangster violence, class warfare, and a pink Cadillac stuffed with cash and gold bars set up Burke’s latest novel, a mystery set in Houston, Tex., in 1952. Burke has a hit with this dark, atmospheric story of teenagers trying to make it through high school without getting killed by Mafia hitmen, low-life thugs, and greasers with oily ducktails and switchblade knives. Seventeen-year-old Aaron bumbles into a steamy teenage romance with Valerie Epstein, angering Grady, her rich country-club ex-boyfriend, who vows jealous revenge. With his prankster best pal, Saber, Aaron unwittingly steps into a messy world of violence that escalates to involve parents, punks, and the police. Beatings, arson, and a murder ramp up the tension as the boys are framed and futilely declare their innocence. Then Grady’s pink Caddie full of money and gold is stolen and the Mafia steps in. They think it’s their money, they want it back, and they believe Aaron and Saber have it. Burke portrays Houston as rife with crime, complete with a corrupt police force, and the boys have little hope of surviving this cesspool. Fortunately, they have good parents, an honest detective, and a savvy prostitute to back them up. Agent: Philip Spitzer, Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency. (Aug.)