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Rain Gods: A Novel (Hardcover)


Another winner from a Grand Master!, July 14, 2009
By Penelope Forrester "pennysinheaven" (TRAVELERS REST, SC, USA)


Burke wins again with this elegantly written tale of Texas Sheriff Hackberry Holland and his search for the killer of nine Chinese women and girls in a sparsely populated Southwest Texas County. We first met Hackberry as a young lawyer in an early Burke work, LAY DOWN MY SWORD AND SHIELD.

Hack, a Korean War veteran, and his able Chief Deputy, Pam Tibbs, must fend off agents from a couple of three-letter federal agencies as they seek a solution to the slaughter while attempting to protect a young, alcholic Irag veteran who witnessed the machine-gunning of the victims. Chock full of displaced New Orleans mob bosses, a hired serial killer, a lonely and talented songstress, and a hapless bar owner bent on protecting his family at all costs, Burke delivers a rip-roaring tale for those who only "surface" read, or those who delve the deeper issues and significances to be found in all his novels.

One often overlooked facet of Burke's work is his creation of strong, brave and talented women. RAIN GODS introduces us to three such women in this work - three women of very different lifestyles and talents - who demonstrate that courage, beauty and love is proven in diverse ways.

A beautifully written work constructed with Burke's usual haunting, involved narrative. Five stars!

(Mea culpa: Added 16 July 2009: To those who may have read my review earlier in the week, I apologize. I confused myself. You will note in the book that Hack spent time in a Korean POW camp. References are made to the Chinese jailers there. In my original review I mis-identified the victims of the mass murder as Chinese. The women were from Thailand. It comes with age. Penny.)

RICK "SHAQ" GOLDSTEIN SAYS: "A CHARACTER AND LANDSCAPE DRIVEN MASTERPIECE!", July 16, 2009
By Rick Shaq Goldstein "Rick Shaq Goldstein" (Danville, Ca, USA)


Way back when the written word was invented... I'm sure there were some lofty goals for its use. But the way James Lee Burke mystically organizes his words in this book is literally evocative... mesmerizing... and outright stimulating. This *ABSOLUTE-CLASSIC* story is a testament to what an artistic genius can create... with the end product assuredly more compelling than was ever hoped for when words were created. This book took me twice as long to read as a book of this length normally would. I found myself underlining his character descriptions... and literally reading them again slowly to myself for my own pure enjoyment. The author's descriptions of landscapes and sunsets... exulted past the boundaries of a murder mystery... and bloomed into fully formed poetry. I literally called a friend just to read some of my underlined verse.

The story takes place in a southern Texas town whose Sheriff is Hackberry Holland who among other things was a POW in North Korea. "I SPENT SIX WEEKS IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND IN WINTERTIME UNDER A SEWER GATE THAT WAS MANUFACTURED IN OHIO. I KNEW ITS PLACE OF ORIGIN BECAUSE I COULD SEE THE LETTERING EMBOSSED ON THE IRON SURFACE. I COULD SEE THE LETTERING BECAUSE EVERY EVENING A COUPLE OF GUARDS URINATED THROUGH THE GRATE AND WASHED THE LETTERING CLEAN OF MUD. I SPENT THOSE WEEKS UNDER THE GRATE WITH ONLY A STEEL POT TO RELIEVE MYSELF IN. I ALSO SAW MY BEST FRIENDS MACHINE-GUNNED TO DEATH AND THEIR BODIES THROWN INTO AN OPEN LATRINE." Holland uncovers nine murdered Thai women and girls in a ditch covered with dirt by a bulldozer. The subsequent search for the murderer leads to a non-stop readers delight involving a list of characters that range from a revengeful ICE agent that breaks the rules because he's never recovered from a personal tragedy involving his daughter being kidnapped... locked in a car trunk... and burned alive... to a gangster that runs a strip joint and "escort" service... another gangster who runs an "escort" service and who in the past buried a bunch of dead Russian prostitutes with stomachs full of heroine... and an almost limitless number of "BUTTON-MEN"... killers for hire... with a very jagged organizational chart reporting chain of command... with the most noteworthy Jack "Preacher" Collins... who in addition to being a cold blooded murderer is a religious fanatic. In the midst of this gaggle of hit men... is a poor sad-sack alcoholic Iraq War Veteran Pete Flores... who after too much alcohol ("One is too many... and a thousand is never enough!") gets involved as a driver on the fateful night that the Thai whore massacre takes place. When Pete flees the scene... he becomes the key witness that all the bad guys need to eliminate... so Pete and his "too-good-for-him" girl friend Vikki Gaddis go on the run. The bad guys are after them... and the Sheriff is after the bad guys... and the Sheriff is also after Pete and Vikki... to try to cut them a deal. And through it all the author's descriptions makes the reader feel like they're sitting on a Greyhound bus looking at the type of characters... who would be sitting on a Greyhound bus on hot southern Texas days and nights... and the landscape... sunrises... and sunsets... are so beautifully conveyed by the author... you feel... and believe... you're looking out the window of the bus... instead of sitting on your living room couch.

Some examples: "THE SKIN OF HIS FACE LIKE A LEATHER MASK, HIS LIPS THICK, ALWAYS SUPPRESSING A GRIN, THE INSIDE OF HIS HEAD CONSTRUCTED OF BONES THAT DIDN'T SEEM TO FIT RIGHT."

"HIS MOUTH WAS COMPRESSED, HIS MIRTH LEAKING FROM HIS NOSE LIKE AIR ESCAPING A RUBBER SEAL."

"THE HILLS FLICKERING WITH ELECTRICITY, THE HORN OF AN EIGHTEEN-WHEELER BLOWING FAR DOWN THE HIGHWAY LIKE A BUGLE FROM A FORGOTTEN WAR."

"A MAN WHOSE BACK LOOKED LIKE RED ALLIGATOR HIDE AND WHO SCREAMED IN HIS SLEEP PROBABLY WASN'T CUT OUT FOR COMMUNAL LIVING."

"HIS FACE WHITE, DISTORTED, HIS EYES WATERING, HIS NARROW HEAD AND LONG NOSE AND GREASED HAIR LIKE THOSE OF A MAN WHO WAS OUT OF SYNCH WITH HIS OWN ERA, A MAN FOR WHOM LOSS WAS A GIVEN AND INEPTITUDE A WAY OF LIFE."

"THE STARS WERE SMOKY, LIKE DRY ICE EVAPORATING ON BLACK VELVET."

"HIS EYES LUMINOUS POOLS BEHIND OCTAGON-SHAPED RIMLESS GLASSES, EYES THAT NICK COULD ONLY ASSOCIATE WITH SPACE ALIENS."

"HER EXPRESSION AS EMPTY AS A WOOD CARVING."... "HIS NECK AND FACE WERE DEEPLY LINED, LIKE THE SKIN ON A TURTLE."... "THERE WAS A SKINNED PLACE ON DANNY BOY'S RIGHT TEMPLE, LIKE A PIECE OF FRUIT THAT HAD BEEN RUBBED ON A CARROT GRATER."... "HER LIPSTICK LOOKED LIKE A FLATTENED ROSE ON HER MOUTH."... "HER FACIAL SKIN HAD THE TEXTURE OF BOILED PIG HIDE."... "ART ROONEY'S FACE HAD AN EXPRESSION ON IT LIKE THAT OF A BLOWFISH WITH A HOOK IN ITS MOUTH".

"IN THE DISTANCE, HE SAW A TRIO OF BUZZARDS CIRCLING HIGH ABOVE THE HARDPAN, THEIR OUTSTRETCHED WINGS STENCILED AGAINST A YELLOW SUN THAT REMINDED HIM OF LIGHT TRAPPED BEHIND A DIRTY WINDOW SHADE."

"AND THE MOON SAT ON THE HORIZON LIKE A HUGE, BRUISED WHITE BALLOON."

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of these enlightening, intelligent, thought provoking aphorisms... all wrapped around an outstanding thriller.

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