Grieving the death of his third wife, Molly, semi-retired detective Dave Robicheaux of Iberia Parrish, Louisiana, carries his sorrows on a face deeply lined with the knowledge that mankind is inherently doomed, yet hopeful that any individual is capable of grasping salvation. A man of conscience, Dave has sown his wild oats, looked the devil in the eye, and understood the price of bad decisions. His soul dancing the two-step with the realities of a compromised world, Robicheaux’s long friendship with P.I. Clete Purcel pulls him once more into the chaos of a self-destructive man currently at risk of losing his beloved home over an outrageous gambling debt.
Disregarding Clete’s warning to leave this problem alone, Dave plunges into a morass of violence and threat where friends and enemies are sometimes indistinguishable from one another, often hiding motive behind a smile. Long separated from the oblivion alcohol affords, Robicheaux can find no respite from the pain of losing Molly. Like it or not, Dave considers Clete’s trouble his business and has no intention of leaving his friend to his own booze-soaked devices. But things get a lot worse when Dave is informed that Molly’s deadly crash may not have been an accident, after all.
Dave is involved in a thorny debate about his actions concerning the death of a local--maybe the man responsible for Molly’s death. Put on a long leash by his boss, there is no shortage of crimes to investigate, particularly a murder case with a full cast of suspicious characters: an aspiring good ‘ol boy, Jimmy Nightingale; a sharp but crooked cop, Detective Spade Labiche; a writer and his troubled wife; and assorted others, like mobster Fat Tony Nemo. As if the “persons of interest” aren’t enough, a hired assassin named Smiley strolls into town without anyone noticing--until random bodies appear.
New Iberia is a place of contrasts, lush natural beauty under the siege of wealthy developers, greed sitting like an oil slick on the luxurious rooms of corporate businessmen, smooth-talkers in sharp contrast with the folks who struggle to provide for their families. Part primitive--gators gliding through treacherous waters--the land is home to rich and poor alike, with strict codes of conduct and a history muddy with deceit, mansions and shacks. Dave is most at ease in the home he shared with Molly. Robicheaux finds Alafair, his daughter, a comfort, even when she agrees to write a screenplay for writer Levon Broussard’s novel in the company of questionable men. There’s even a new raccoon, Mon Tee Coon, to take the place of the missing Tripod.
Robicheaux and Purcel have walked a long road together, clothed in the bodies of hard-living men, marked by years and conversant with death, still reckless when provoked but tempered by experience--scarred and scratched but not yet done. Burke and through his magic, Robicheaux, are old friends who share their stories: wild, outrageous and tragic tales, recently melancholic. Still, character and plot burst from a world harried by trouble, long overdue for a reckoning. It’s coming.