James Lee Burke

Light of the World

"Once again, JLB has come up with a nuanced, lyrical and spellbinding read. You’d be mad to miss it."


When Detective Dave Robicheaux's daughter, Alafair, declares her intention to interview a convicted serial killer called Asa Surette in his Kansas prison cell, he does all he can to dissuade her. Dave has always encouraged her ambitions as a writer, but as a father he doesn't want her to be exposed to a man so nakedly evil. And his fears seem well founded when Alafair is visibly shocked by the encounter.

Two years later, the horror Surette evoked is all but forgotten, as Dave, his wife Molly and Alafair are vacationing amidst the natural beauty of Montana. But evil, it seems, has followed them into this wild paradise. Someone is stalking Alafair, and Dave begins to suspect that it's Surette - even though he officially died when the prison truck he was being transported in collided with an oil tanker. Is Alafair now the target of one of the most depraved serial killers ever to have been caught, or has she unwittingly crossed paths with a murderous psychopath closer to home?

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Some writers come up with books that you rip through, anxious to get to the end. Mr Burke writes books with that same feel but tempers it with moments where you need to slow down and savour the words on the page giving you an altogether more immersive reading experience. As a long-time fan of JLB I'm happy to report that here, in his latest outing, his skills are every bit as potent as they were in book one. Good vs. evil is a constant theme in his books and 'Light of the World' continues that examination with verve. His characters are all in fine form, each exhibiting touches of both sides of the good/ evil divide, none more so than Gretchen, Clete's daughter he never knew he had. This is still very much a Dave/ Clete novel but both of their daughters step up and take a bigger role in the story this time round. For some writers this might have been a tricky proposition. Readers are highly loyal to characters that they have come to know and love and might have been disappointed to see their favourites usurped slightly on the page. But Alafair and Gretchen are such strong characters in their own right that this was never in danger of happening. Indeed, there were times when the action of the book put the ladies in danger and I couldn't bear the thought of anything bad happening to either of them, so much so that at one point I had to put the book down for a wee break. That beautifully conjured sense of danger is a testament to this writer's skill. Gretchen is one of the most fascinating characters I've come across in crime fiction recently. Conflicted, damaged and capable of great wrongs she nonetheless commands the reader's respect and empathy. Once again, JLB has come up with a nuanced, lyrical and spellbinding read. You'd be mad to miss it.

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