The Neon Rain

THE NEON RAIN, set in New Orleans and the bayous of Cajun country, tells the story of detective Dave Robicheaux, a Vietnam veteran with a drinking problem, who lives in a houseboat on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain.

Dried out now, and trying to make peace with his demons, Robicheaux is pulled, inexorably, into an elaborate plot that, in the light of recent news events, does not seem improbable. The book has an authentically gutsy, hard-boiled tone, but the story simply does not hold up. The author has left out whole blocks of clues that keep the reader in an artificial state of confusion that passes for intrigue.

Burke pays homage to all the masters, with a special doff of the cap to John D. MacDonald. What is missing is the ever-escalating pace that makes MacDonald’s works so successful. Burke’s prose is tough and lyrical, with an almost too studied ear for dialogue and a penchant for lean embellishments that give a vagueness to the whole proceedings. His descriptions of New Orleans and the bayous are like a rapturous travelogue: certainly heartfelt, but hardly integral to the story.