A Stained White Radiance (Magill Book Reviews)
Dave Robicheaux, an officer with the sheriff’s department in New Iberia, Louisiana, looks into a mysterious shooting at the home of Weldon Sonnier, a childhood friend reluctant to assist in the investigation. After a break-in at Weldon’s leaves another officer dead, Dave painstakingly pieces together the connections between Weldon; his sister, Drew; their brother, Lyle, an evangelist; Bobby Earl, a right-wing politician; Joey Gouza, a New Orleans gangster; and the Sonniers’ supposedly dead father.
Dave discovers a complex dependency on the part of the Sonniers that leads them to help cover up one another’s failings. Dave’s investigation also reveals how Lyle, Weldon, and he are haunted in different ways by their experiences in the Vietnam War and how each longs to allay his guilt.
A STAINED WHITE RADIANCE, Burke’s fifth Robicheaux tale, is less a novel of detection than one of character, mood, and style. Dave, the Sonniers, and Gouza are vivid characterizations. Burke is very adept at exploring contemporary guilt and the ways in which the past refuses to let go of those in its grasp. Also compelling is his portrait of a South torn between its idyllic qualities and its violent tendencies. Most notable is Burke’s subtle tough-guy style, recalling those of Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard.
Sources for Further Study
Atlanta Journal Constitution. March 29, 1992, p. N10.
(The entire section is 278 words.)
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A Stained White Radiance (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
A Stained White Radiance is the fifth of James Lee Burke’s novels about Dave Robicheaux, first a New Orleans police detective and now working for the sheriff’s department in his hometown of New Iberia, Louisiana. The series, which began with Neon Rain (1987), includes Black Cherry Blues (1989), which won an Edgar Award as the best mystery of its year from the Mystery Writers of America. Burke’s tough-guy style, evocation of place, and emphasis on the interlocking chain of corruption that threatens to engulf American society has earned him comparisons with the best contemporary crime writers, including Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins, Loren Estleman, and Charles Willeford.
Burke’s Robicheaux novels have a greater depth than most crime tales. Burke began his career writing straight fiction, and his early novels, Half of Paradise (1965), To the Bright and Shining Sun (1970), and Lay Down My Sword and Shield (1971) deal primarily with the problems of the disenfranchised. His crime novels reflect the same social concerns, with Dave Robicheaux longing to right society’s inequities while feeling helpless to do so.
A Stained White Radiance focuses on Dave’s relationship with the Sonnier family. He has known them all his life, had an affair with Drew when he was in college, and served with Lyle in Vietnam. He finds himself called to the home of their older brother, Weldon, to...
(The entire section is 1890 words.)