A Stained White Radiance

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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.

Bloomsbury Review. CXXIX, June, 1992, p. 1.

Boston Globe. April 25, 1992, p. 36.

Chicago Tribune. April 12, 1992, XIV, p. 7.

Kirkus Reviews. LX, January 15, 1992, p. 77.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. April 12, 1992, p. 12.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, April 5, 1992, p. 14.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIX, January 27, 1992, p. 90.

Southern Living. XXVII, July, 1992, p. 94.

The Washington Post Book World. XXII, April 5, 1992, p. 5.