The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

August 19, 2010


Detective Dave Robicheaux has an ugly case on his desk. Seven young women brutally tortured and murdered. But one of them doesn't fit with the others. Six of them were addicts, prostitutes, runaways. Throwaway lives in today's world. One young woman was a high school honor student with a college scholarship awaiting, and no connection to the streets. Another victim, a runaway down from Canada, had been tortured so viciously that she had actually sweated blood. Dave's only lead is a pimp named Herman Stanga. When Stanga fails to cooperate, Dave's best friend, Clete Purcel, a PI and all-around loose cannon, administers a brutal public beating -- the cell-phone cameras were clicking away -- to Stanga. Clete's freedom, his whole life, is really going down the tubes this time.

Just in case a sadistic psychopath isn't enough for Dave to worry about, he has to stand by as his daughter, Alafair, gets engaged to a wealthy author, Southern scion Kermit Abelard. Said scion has been keeping a-leetle-too-close quarters with a literary ex-con beloved by the reading world. Not so beloved by Dave though, who loathes the historical Abelard family values and the literary ex-con alike.

The Glass Rainbow
is a highly-charged, evocative thriller packed with the author's musings on the end of life. There can be little need to describe the beauty of Burke's prose to anyone who has read any of his work, and there is no let-down or backing away in this book. In the first paragraph alone, Burke paints a word picture of  misty shadows that readily conveys the book's atmosphere from the outset. When it comes to juxtaposing light and shadow, Burke is a verbal Rembrandt. The depth of his characters is revealed in every action, every line of dialogue, and the overarching theme, facing one's mortality, is handled spiritually, symbolically, and with a great tenderness. This is a story both fearsome and moving. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Instead of a single excerpt from The Glass Rainbow, I'd like to share just a few of my favorite sentences:
  • "There are instances when the exigencies of your life or profession require that you ingratiate yourself with people who make you uncomfortable, not because of what they are but because you fear their approval and the possibility you are more like them than you are willing to accept. I kept believing that age would one day free me of that burden. But it never has."
  • "The vagueness of the term 'homeless' is unintentionally appropriate for many of the people inside this group. We have no idea who they are, how many of them are mentally ill or just poor, or how many of them are fugitives. In the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of them were dumped on the streets or refused admission by federal hospitals. The mendicant culture they established is still with us, although our problem of conscience regarding their welfare seems to have faded."
  • "To try to control the lives of other people is a form of arrogance."
  •  "A time comes when the loudest sound in a room, any room, is the ticking of a clock. And the problem is not the amplified nature of the sound; the problem is that the sound is slowing, each tick a little further away than the one that preceded it."
  • Describing the fat cats at a fundraiser: "They were porcine and sleek and combed and brushed, and they jingled when they walked."
  • And a conversation between Sheriff Helen Soileau and Dave, where the reader gets a rare glimpse of Helen's rage: 
    • "You know how many unsolved female homicides there are in Louisiana?"
    • "No."
    • "That's the point. Nobody does. Not here, not anywhere. It's open season on women and girls in this country. You bring that asshole in. If he falls down and leaves blood on the vehicle, all the better. His DNA becomes a voluntary submission."
  • "The dead carry a special kind of passport, and they go anywhere they want."
  • "Don't let anyone tell you that age purchases you freedom from fear of death."
  • "It has been my experience that most human stories are circular rather than linear. Regardless of the path we choose, we somehow end up where we commenced -- in part, I suspect, because the child who lives in us goes along for the ride."


  1. Whoa! Great review. It been so long since I read any of his book!

  2. Thank you, Darlyn. This book is as good a place as any to renew your acquaintance with Dave and Clete.

  3. Whoa. The man certainly has a way with words. Thanks for including that in the review, Naomi.

  4. Michael, there are longer passages that are so moving - his descriptions of Clete's battles with his inner demons, for example -- I hated for them to end. This one should be great in audio, even though Mark Hammer is no longer around to do it perfect justice.