In post-Katrina New Orleans and New Iberia Parish, Louisiana, Dave Robicheaux is on loan to the NOPD, still reeling from the devastation of the Louisiana coast. Dave’s close pal, Clete Purcel, is desperately trying to locate a dying junkie ex-priest who was last seen helping trapped residents escape from the roof of a church.
Unfortunately, the priest’s boat is hijacked by four young black men whose only concern is their own welfare. Robicheaux is assigned to the vigilante shooting of these same four young men, one of them killed instantly, another paralyzed by a shot that severs his spinal chord. The enterprising looters-cum-hijackers have copped a once-in-a-lifetime score: the secret stash in a wealthy man’s New Orleans home.
In a plot riddled with such coincidences, the most likely suspect for the shooting is a man with a home in New Orleans and Iberia Parish, moving his family to the smaller house in New Iberia after the looting and random violence that hits the city. The man’s daughter was brutally raped, and the circumstances surrounding the hurricane have only exacerbated the family’s difficulties.
Both Robicheaux and Purcel are familiar figures in Burke’s novels, Dave more often than not saving Clete from his own worst inclinations, the two having seen far too much of life since Viet Nam to expect much in return. However, Dave is now content in his home with his wife and college-aged daughter, Alafair. Unfortunately, Dave’s troubles in the investigation and Clete’s search for the ex-priest bring an unsavory character too close to home. Ron Bledsoe, supposedly an insurance investigator, appears in the most unlikely places asking intimidating questions.
After Katrina, neither Dave nor Clete is prepared for the parade of horrors that changes the face of New Orleans, all her flaws exposed in nature’s indifferent assault. Not known for his patience in the best of circumstances, Robicheaux is fit to be tied when Bledsoe makes inappropriate advances to Alafair, posing an intolerable threat to the safety of his family.
Tangential events connect a number of disparate characters in a maze of hunter and hunted: the decent insurance agent whose daughter was brutally raped; a blowhard vigilante who patrols his flooded neighborhood with his drunken friends; and a powerful businessman who has risen from the wrong side of the tracks to a position of social prominence. And somehow Bledsoe has found the connection to each, secretly tracking the stolen goods the looters found.
Robicheaux inhabits this post-Katrina novel with the nostalgia and grief born of senseless destruction and outrageous bureaucratic blunders, a great city brought low not only by nature but the criminal manipulation of greedy profiteers. Robicheaux makes peace with violence without losing his soul, but is distraught at the loss of his beloved New Orleans: “The destruction of New Orleans was an ongoing national tragedy and probably an American watershed in the history of political cynicism.”
Untangling a complicated knot of deceits and criminal activities, Robicheaux manages to uncover the culprit behind the shootings, at the same time addressing the evil intentions of the man stalking his family in yet another masterful assemblage of outrageous events and the terrible fate of the Big Easy.