Burke is the iconic chronicler of Louisiana’s Iberia Parish where Dave Robicheaux - recovering alcoholic, cop and crusader against the entrenched criminal mentality of society - has tangled with the bad guys for years. In thrillers that evoke the lore of a fabled Southern state, where the disenfranchised poor suffer the usual fate of drugs and lack of opportunity, Robicheaux is often the lone man willing to take on those hiding behind a good ol’ boys network of wealthy friends, a way of life unchanged by the Civil War.
At Dave’s side in many of these sideways adventures is Clete Purcel, PI, an Vietnam vet who still suffers flashbacks, his tendencies towards self-destruction increasing with the years. Too often Robicheaux has let Purcel’s actions seep into cases in the New Iberia Police department, a fact that does not sit well with Dave’s commanding officer. These days Purcel has more enemies than friends, his demons more frequently unleashed by alcohol and one-night stands, his outrage building to a boiling point.
Currently Clete’s wrath is trained on the unsolved murders of a number of young black women, assumed prostitutes by the authorities, the cases getting little attention by the press or local law enforcement. When Clete assaults neighborhood pimp Herman Stanga, who claims he is doing charity work for the poor, Dave is drawn into the situation in defense of his volatile friend. But Dave has problems of his own. His adopted daughter, Alafair, an aspiring writer, is being courted by a local scion of a wealthy and politically powerful family: Kermit Abelard, a published novelist of the historical South ten years older than the impressionable young woman.
Equally disturbing is Abelard’s friendship with Robert Weingart, ex-con and author of a bestseller detailing his experiences in the penal system. In his heart, Robicheaux knows both of these men are wrong, but he also knows he cannot protect Alafair is she chooses to ignore his advice in a bid for independence. More problems come to light, tangential but troubling connections between Stanga and Weingart, the serial murders and an influential man who hires Purcel to follow his wife, a local charity set up as a façade for criminal activity.
While the murders and his new client exacerbate Clete’s dissatisfaction with the demands of the legal system, he steps over the line with Stanga, making himself an easy target, Robicheaux right beside him. Such is the nature of crime in New Iberia and neighboring parishes, where the wolf masquerades in sheep’s clothing, enjoying the protections of the law. Purcel is old school and will not be restrained. Both Purcel and Robicheaux are brought to the edge of disaster one more time, as Burke scrapes away the façade to expose the corruption that flourishes in this volatile place. It’s the age-old battle of good versus evil, Dave and Clete as flawed as those they pursue, all the more complex for these contradictions.
Threading through a web of associations that have escaped notice in his investigation of the murders of the brutalized young women that ignited Clete’s interest in the first place, Robicheaux examines the imbalance of wealth and poverty in Iberia Parish and the fragile hopes of those caught in the flux of time, where an enterprising opportunist “learned his value system from the oligarchy, people who possessed one eye in the kingdom of the blind.” This is Robicheaux’s territory, where morality shifts and right and wrong are mired in the murky recesses of the human heart. As usual, Burke flays his characters - and his readers - with scorching truth and the reality of the world we live in.