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Creole Belle

Cover of Creole Belle

Creole Belle

A Dave Robicheaux Novel
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“America’s best novelist” James Lee Burke returns with another New York Times bestselling entry in the Dave Robicheaux thriller series (The Denver Post).
Set against the events of the Gulf Coast oil spill, rife with “the menaces of greed and violence and man-made horror” (The Christian Science Monitor), Creole Belle finds Dave Robicheaux languishing in a New Orleans recovery unit since surviving a bayou shoot-out. The detective’s body is healing; it’s his morphine-addled mind that conjures spectral visions of Tee Jolie Melton, a young woman who in reality has gone missing. An iPod with an old blues song left by his bedside turns Robicheaux into a man obsessed…And as oil companies assign blame after an epic disaster threatens the Gulf’s very existence, Robicheaux unearths connections between tragedies both global and personal—and faces down forces that can corrupt and destroy the best of men.
“America’s best novelist” James Lee Burke returns with another New York Times bestselling entry in the Dave Robicheaux thriller series (The Denver Post).
Set against the events of the Gulf Coast oil spill, rife with “the menaces of greed and violence and man-made horror” (The Christian Science Monitor), Creole Belle finds Dave Robicheaux languishing in a New Orleans recovery unit since surviving a bayou shoot-out. The detective’s body is healing; it’s his morphine-addled mind that conjures spectral visions of Tee Jolie Melton, a young woman who in reality has gone missing. An iPod with an old blues song left by his bedside turns Robicheaux into a man obsessed…And as oil companies assign blame after an epic disaster threatens the Gulf’s very existence, Robicheaux unearths connections between tragedies both global and personal—and faces down forces that can corrupt and destroy the best of men.
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    FOR THE REST of the world, the season was still fall, marked by cool nights and the gold-green remnants of summer. For me, down in South Louisiana, in the Garden District of New Orleans, the wetlands that lay far beyond my hospital window had turned to winter, one characterized by stricken woods that were drained of water and strung with a web of gray leaves and dead air vines that had wrapped themselves as tightly as cord around the trees.

    Those who have had the following experience will not find my descriptions exaggerated or even metaphorical in nature. A morphine dream has neither walls nor a ceiling nor a floor. The sleep it provides is like a warm bath, free of concerns about mortality and pain and memories from the past. Morpheus also allows us vision through a third eye that we never knew existed. His acolytes can see through time and become participants in grand events they had believed accessible only through history books and films. On one occasion, I saw a hot-air balloon rising from its tether in Audubon Park, a uniformed soldier operating a telegrapher's key inside the wicker basket, while down below other members of the Confederate Signal Corps shared sandwiches and drank coffee from tin cups, all of them as stately and stiff as figures in a sepia-tinted photograph.

    I don't wish to be too romantic about my experience in the recovery facility there on St. Charles Avenue in uptown New Orleans. While I gazed through my window at the wonderful green streetcar wobbling down the tracks on the neutral ground, the river fog puffing out of the live oak trees, the pink and purple neon on the Katz & Besthoff drugstore as effervescent as tentacles of smoke twirling from marker grenades, I knew with a sinking heart that what I was seeing was an illusion, that in reality the Katz & Besthoff drugstore and the umbrella-covered sno'ball carts along St. Charles and the musical gaiety of the city had slipped into history long ago, and somewhere out on the edge of my vision, the onset of permanent winter waited for me.

    Though I'm a believer, that did not lessen the sense of trepidation I experienced in these moments. I felt as if the sun were burning a hole in the sky, causing it to blacken and collapse like a giant sheet of carbon paper suddenly crinkling and folding in on itself, and I had no power to reverse the process. I felt that a great darkness was spreading across the land, not unlike ink spilling across the face of a topographic map.

    Many years ago, when I was recovering from wounds I received in a Southeast Asian country, a United States Army psychiatrist told me that my morphine-induced dreams were creating what he called a "world destruction fantasy," one that had its origins in childhood and the dissolution of one's natal family. He was a scientist and a learned man, and I did not argue with him. Even at night, when I lay in a berth on a hospital ship, far from free-fire zones and the sound of ammunition belts popping under a burning hooch, I did not argue. Nor did I contend with the knowledge of the psychiatrist when dead members of my platoon spoke to me in the rain and a mermaid with an Asian face beckoned to me from a coral cave strung with pink fans, her hips spangled with yellow coins, her mouth parting, her naked breasts as flushed with color as the inside of a conch shell.

    The cult of Morpheus is a strange community indeed, and it requires that one take up residence in a country where the improbable becomes commonplace. No matter what I did, nor how many times I disappeared out my window into the mists along St. Charles Avenue, back into an era of rooftop jazz...

About the Author-
  • James Lee Burke, a rare winner of two Edgar Awards, and named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, is the author of thirty previous novels and two collections of short stories, including such New York Times bestsellers as The Glass Rainbow, Swan Peak, The Tin Roof Blowdown, Last Car to Elysian Fields and Rain Gods. He lives in Missoula, Montana.
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A Dave Robicheaux Novel
James Lee Burke
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A Dave Robicheaux Novel
James Lee Burke
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