cover image A Private Cathedral: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

A Private Cathedral: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

James Lee Burke. Simon & Schuster, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-9821-5168-3

A centuries-long feud between two warring criminal families might be coming to an end in MWA Grand Master Burke’s superb 23rd novel featuring New Iberia, La., cop Dave Robicheaux (after 2019’s New Iberia Blues), set loosely sometime before 9/11. Those who want to forge a union between the two clans, the Shondells and the Balangies, are pressuring teenage rock ’n’ roller Johnny Shondell to deliver Isolde Balangie, his teenage girlfriend and fellow singer, to his powerful, corrupt, and much older uncle, Mark Shondell, for what amounts to an arranged marriage. Johnny and Isolde decide to go on the run instead. Robicheaux’s efforts on behalf of the young couple lead to his developing a close relationship with Isolde’s mother, which causes a conflict of interest. Meanwhile, the lawman must contend with Gideon Richetti, a time-traveling golem. Gideon, whom Burke presents unabashedly as a supernatural being, appears to have pure malevolence on his mind, but he turns out to be a far more complicated creation. Along the way to the wild and bloody climax, alcoholic Vietnam vet Robicheaux contends with his various personal demons and gets some much needed help from PI pal Clete Purcell. An imaginative blend of crime and other genres, Burke’s existential drama is both exquisitely executed and profoundly moving. Agent: Philip Spitzer, Philip G. Spitzer Literary. (May)