I enjoyed this book partly because it was set in Texas near where we have spent some winter months several times; there were place names familiar to me. More than that though, the style of James Lee Burke really appeals to me. His descriptions are layered, he writes details that make the plot more colorful without really being absolutelu necessary, and he is loyal to his voice throughout the novel. Better have a notepad handy...I counted 20 characters in the first 90 pages or so. It's all about those details and fleshing out the whole story.
Though I usually read his novels starring Dave Robichaux, this was the first with Billy Bob Holland. While they have different professions and distinct personalities, their locales are not too far apart. The reader can tell, though, that Burke is familiar with both. I've finally learned that he tosses in a little nugget making the reader think he has missed something, then a bit later the connection is made. Burke is not an author to be read while one is multi-tasking!
I'd read Burke if he started writing on the backs of cereal boxes.
Peggy Jean Deitrich smells of heat and roses, volunteers in the local library, and hides her bruises well. Once Billy Bob Holland made love to her in the woods above the river. Now Peggy Jean is married to the richest man in town. And Billy Bob, a former Texas Ranger who now defends criminals for a living, is out to destroy him.
Earl Deitrich has had his way with the town of Deaf Smith, for years. Then Earl accused a hapless roustabout of a crime, and touched off a chain reaction of murder from the streets of Houston to the hill country around Billy Bob's ranch. Fueled by his memories and regrets, following a trail of shattered lives, Billy Bob knows that he must go after Earl with a vengeance. He just doesn't know how many people will get in the way or who will be the last to die ....
FROM THE PUBLISHER
Heartwood is a kind of tree that grows in layers. And as Billy Bob's grandfather once told him, you do well in life by keeping the roots in a clear stream and not letting anyone taint the water for you. But in Holland's dusty little hometown of Deaf Smith, in the hill country north of Austin, local kingpin Earl Deitrich has made a fortune running roughshod and tainting anyone who stands in his way. Billy Bob has problems with Deitrich and his shamelessly callous demeanor, but can't shake the legacy of his passion for Deitrich's "heartbreak-beautiful" wife, Peggy Jean.
When Holland takes on the defense of Wilbur Pickett -- a man accused of stealing an heirloom and three hundred thousand dollars in bonds from Deitrich's office -- he finds himself up against not only Earl's power and influence, but also a past Billy Bob can't will away.
...Billy Bob Holland reminds me of the southern Sheriff played by Bill Paxton in "One False Move" or Chris Cooper as the Texas Ranger in "Lone Star". Or Gary Cooper in those 40's/50's westerns.
'Course, in Lee Burke's Texas, murders and the overall evil men do take on quite a different flavor. *Quite* a different flavor. A Latin gang member is murdered by a lethal drug which has been punched in his face during a so called friendly boxing spar. A wildcatter initally accused of taking bearer bonds--Billy Bob's client--finds his mother's body exhumed and in his pick-up truck out in a dark and dreary field; this is a threat from Big Earl Dietrich to comply with some kind of land development deal with a promise of big resources...he wants IN, but Deitrich would rather just muscle his way in. The wildcatter is married to a blind Indian spiritlifter, who murders an intruder to her home so efficiently and thoroughly it seems like it was done in a mode other than self defense. The Big guy's son seems to have some scandalous problems with his sexuality and Billy Bob has somehow gotten a dose of a rare Asian jungle poison. Add to the mix some insane prison escapees, an able assistant, his son Lucas, and a lil fishing buddy and you have quite an intriging stage for mystery.