Review: Pegasus Descending, James Lee Burke

Pegasus Descending
Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unlike many of his other novels, I read Pegasus Descending, rather than listening to the audiobook. Reading James Lee Burke is different from listening to the audiobook. The chosen narrators have really captured the character of Dave Robicheaux. I have those voices in my head now when I read a Robicheaux novel. It works.

A few general observations that struck me about JL Burke’s stories: Nothing is ever as it seems. Even the gambler with a vendetta has a twist of her own. Burke doesn’t do cardboard characters. They all have depth, history, and substance. The full humanity of Burke’s characters is revealed gradually. A look, an unexpected response to a question, or a lack of response. A gesture, failure to make eye contact–all demonstrate flaws that have led or will lead to tragic consequences for one character or another.

The setting has so much depth and vibrancy, it’s a character as well. Burke paints a sunset over Lake Ponchartrain or a cluster of live oaks dripping with moss that will have you believing you’ve been there.

One more thing: he doesn’t ignore race. His stories aren’t about race, but this is the South, Louisiana, and often race a factor in disputes, politics, in the social landscape. Race still matters. JL Burke doesn’t forget that.

Pegasus Descending starts out similar to other Robicheaux stories: unrelated incidents in Dave’s life dredges up the past, and they gradually converge into a big problem for Dave. In the end, one thing remains true: In Dave Robicheaux’s world, solutions are never easy, and justice is never simple.

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