The Tin Roof Blowdown by
James Lee Burke

Tin Roof BlowdownReviewed by Allen Hott

James Lee Burke should be called Mr. New Orleans. He has been writing about his beloved city for years and The Tin Roof Blowdown tells the story of the devastation, thievery, sadness, and bravery that came about because of Katrina’s catastrophic journey through the city.

Dave Robicheaux, an Iberian sheriff’s detective, is the main character as he has been in several other Burke novels. He, together with Clete Purcel, who works for a bond service chasing bail jumpers, gets involved in several of the criminal events that take place in the aftermath of the storm.

Four teenagers use the torn up condition of many of the deserted homes to search out items of value and in so doing happen to get into one that is owned by Sidney Kovick. Kovick, a local florist, is also reputed to be a top money man in the New Orleans crime scene. Good news or bad, depending on how you look at it, the boys discover thousands of dollars as well as some diamonds that appear to be very expensive.

Several of these four boys were recently involved in the rape/assault of a young girl who lives in the neighborhood with the Kovicks. Her father, a well to do insurance executive, has prepared his home extremely well for the arrival of the hurricane and his family is watching the four boys ravage the neighborhood from the safety of their home.

As the boys who are using a boat for their illicit business prepare to leave the area several shots ring out and two of them are hit. One dies immediately while the other is wounded so badly that he will not live long if not ministered to by a doctor.

The news of this happening brings Robicheaux and Purcel into the mix as the local police and now even the FBI begin to get involved. The feeling is that this is an opportunity to get enough information on Kovick to at least take him to trial for some of his suspected past crimes.

Another subplot in the story involves Robicheaux’s search for a missing priest who was last seen attempting to help a group of residents who were stuck in the attic of an almost completely submerged home. The priest has been a friend of Robicheaux’s for years so he feels a commitment to finding the priest. However from all reports it appears that the priest along with many of the residents has drowned.

Throughout the story Burke does a fantastic job of illustrating just how devastating Katrina was to New Orleans and the surrounding area. He does it in such detail that the reader is able to see the terrible conditions as he follows the story line. At times the emotions that the reader develops from reading about the terrible things that actually happened at that time down there almost block out the story of the criminal events that are central to The Tin Roof Blowdown.

Burke writes with a tremendous feel for life. Such as,

“People who look as interesting as a mud wall have the personal histories of classical Greeks. I sometimes think that every person’s experience, if translated into flame, would be enough to melt the flesh from his bones.”

Along with his fantastic writing abilities he keeps the interest of the reader at all times with his story line. If any complaint might be registered it may be the coarseness of the language that is used but it is what is used in the area. A truly great read!

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