Wednesday, January 17

Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke

Review by Gloria Feit

 

Pegasus Descending opens with a recounting of Dave Robicheaux' time in an exchange program between the New Orleans Police Dept. and a training academy for police cadets in South Florida, where his hours are divided between the homicide unit at the Miami P.D. and a criminal justice class at a community college a bit further north.  That was in his drinking days, when most of his down-time was spent in bars.  He says of those with whom he spent that time:  "Most of them drank with a self-deprecating resignation and long ago had given up rationalizing the lives they led, I suspect allowing themselves a certain degree of peace."  He tries to go on the wagon, but finds himself back in the bar, pretending "once ag ain I could drop lighted matches in a gas tank without consequence."  One of his few friends among the regular bar customers is a young man names Dallas Klein, a highly decorated Vietnam war hero who works for an armored car company, with a 6-year-old daughter and an addiction to gambling.  One afternoon when Dave is, as usual, seriously drunk, Dallas, his best friend, is gunned down in an armored car holdup/bank robbery in front of Dave, and the moment has haunted him ever since.

 

Fast forward two decades.   Dave has long since been sober, having joined AA shortly after the bank robbery, the perpetrators of which were never caught.  He has left New Orleans and returned to New Iberia, and is a detective with the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department.  When he is called out to investigate a relatively minor incident involving possibly stolen money, the woman in possession of the bills turns out to be Trish Klein, Dallas' daughter.  The more Dave discovers about Trish, the less sure he is of anything about her.  What is he to make of her friends, who strike him "like people who met at a bus depot and decide to live together?"   And he must determine what, if any, connection she had with the apparent suicide of a local girl, described as "young and beautiful and full of promise," whose body is discovered the same day Dave first meets Trish.  As the author says, crediting Faulkner with the line, "the past is not only still with us, it is not even the past."  Pegasus Descending is full of surprises, passion, tragedy and fascinating characters, including, as usual in the series, Dave's old NOPD partner, Clete Purcel, and Helen Soileau, now the Sheriff.  It is well-plotted, with wonderful prose and.a setting lovingly, nostalgically  and wonderfully evoked.  In short, it is everything we have come to expect from this author, and is recommended.

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