James Lee Burke

The Tin Roof Blowdown

"James Lee Burke is clearly passionate about New Orleans..."


As Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, the inhabitants of the city who are unable to flee to safer ground experience the full force of the storm. In its aftermath, members of the surrounding police forces come to the city's aid, including Dave Robicheaux from Iberia's Sherriff's Department.

Much of their work involves the distressing recovery of the bodies of those drowned by the storm. However, Robicheaux is perplexed by the events leading to the shooting of two black youths who were looting the house of a local gangster. One potential suspect is Otis Baylor whose daughter was brutally raped by a gang of young black men, one of whom may be among the victims.

However, with the remaining looters on the run, it is clear that something of great value was stolen from the looted property and these burglars now have a price on their heads. As Robicheaux investigates these odd events, his family is drawn into the crisis - with violent results.

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This book is both a murder investigation and a passionate account of those caught up in the events of the hurricane. The strength of the book is that these two aspects are seamlessly interwoven into the story. The shooting of the two looters is shown partly to be a by-product of the storm. Bureaucratic inefficiency has left many inhabitants with no choice but to defend their property by whatever means possible and has allowed those with criminal intent to go about their business virtually undetected. James Lee Burke is clearly passionate about New Orleans and the book is also a rant against those in positions of authority who allowed the city's flood defences to be left to deteriorate. The part of the book which depicts the psychopathic Ronald Blesoe terrorising Robicheaux's family is, in my view, the least convincing aspect of the story. Although Bledsoe is a fascinating character, he doesn't seem to fit in to the rest of the book's gritty realism. This is an extremely well written book, however, and fascinating for readers who want an insider's view of the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina.

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