Picks and Pans Review: Burning Angel

updated 07/31/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/31/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by James Lee Burke

Beach Book of the Week

It's a good thing that Sheriff Dave Robicheaux is from Iberia Parish in Louisiana. That's where Tabasco sauce comes from. In his most complex tale to date, the author stirs up for his hero a peppery blend: the Mob, government mercenaries and dirty money—all set to a simmer by a piquant interracial love affair. Why does patrician lawyer Moleen Bertrand want Bertie Fontenot and her clan to vacate a worthless strip of land on his estate that was once inhabited by slaves? The answer leads Robicheaux into a deadly shadowland. Burke is perhaps the only mystery writer to bring magical realism to his prose, calling up the pained history of the South. A moralizing ghost floats through Burning Angel: the dog tags of someone Robicheaux knew in the war turn up on his doorstep, and a slave's rusted leg iron appears on his car seat. "If you ever doubt the proximity of the past," writes Burke, "you only have to look over your shoulder at the rain slanting on the fields...just a careless wink of the eye, just that quick, and you're among them...in step with the great armies of the dead." Angel proves Burke a master of the march. (Hyperion, $22.95)

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