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Bitterroot
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Following his acclaimed bestseller Purple Cane Road, James Lee Burke returns with a triumphant tour de force. Set in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, home to celebrities seeking to escape the pressures of public life, as well as to xenophobes dedicated to establishing a bulkhead of patriotic paranoia, Burke's novel features Billy Bob Holland, former Texas Ranger and now a Texas-based lawyer, who has come to Big Sky Country for some fishing and ends up helping out an old friend in trouble. And big trouble it is, not just for his friend but for Billy Bob himself -- in the form of Wyatt Dixon, a recent prison parolee sworn to kill Billy Bob as revenge for both his imprisonment and his sister's death, both of which he blames on the former Texas lawman. As the mysteries multiply and the body count mounts, the reader is drawn deeper into the tortured mind of Billy Bob Holland, a complex hero tormented by the mistakes of his past and driven to make things -- all things -- right. But beneath the guise of justice for the weak and downtrodden lies a tendency for violence that at times becomes more terrifying than the danger he is trying to eradicate. As USA Today noted in discussing the parallels between Billy Bob Holland and Burke's other popular series hero, David Robicheaux, "Robicheaux and Holland are two of a kind, white-hat heroes whose essential goodness doesn't keep them from fighting back. The two series describe different landscapes, but one theme remains constant: the inner conflict when upright men are provoked into violence in defense of hearth, home, women, and children. There are plenty of parallels. Billy Bob is an ex-Texas Ranger; Dave is an ex-New Orleans cop. Dave battles alcoholism and the ghosts of Vietnam; Billy Bob actually sees ghosts, including the Ranger he accidentally gunned down....But most of all, both protagonists hold a vision of a pure and simple life." In Bitterroot, with its rugged and vivid setting, its intricate plot, and a set of remarkable, unforgettable characters, and crafted with the lyrical prose and the elegiac tone that have inspired many critics to compare him to William Faulkner, James Lee Burke has written a thriller destined to surpass the success of his previous novels.
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How many bad guys can you fit into one crime novel? Too many, in the case of Bitterroot, Burke's latest Billy Bob Holland episode set in Missoula, MT. Violent bikers, West Coast mobsters, paramilitary types, indifferent agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and corrupt mining company personnel all figure into this rather confusing and disjointed plot. The abridged format probably aggravates the problem. As usual, the author paints vivid pictures: his descriptions enable listeners to see the Montana scenery and feel emotions with the characters, who are interesting and complex. Narrator Will Patton effectively captures the mood of the book. Burke fans will want this, despite its flaws. Recommended for suspense/ mystery collections where Burke is popular. Christine Valentine, Davenport Univ., Kalamazoo, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

A two-time Edgar Award winner, Burke touches on a variety of hot-button issues sure to thrill his fans in his first book since last year's Purple Cane Road. The author's popular protagonist, Texas attorney Billy Bob Holland, travels to big sky country for some fishing with Doc Voss, a friend who's relocated to Montana's Bitterroot Valley after his wife's death. Soaring descriptions of the majestic setting contrast sharply with the evil doings of the people who live there. Doc has made some powerful enemies in his campaign against a mining venture he believes would harm the economy and the pristine countryside. The stakes rise when his teenage daughter is raped in her bedroom. The rapists could be any of the white supremacists who live in the woods, randy bikers on the prowl, strange members of a conservative religious cult or even the Native Americans eking out a substandard living on the local reservation. Billy Bob and Doc also have to contend with celebrities wanting to experience "country life," organized crime figures, government agents and a sinister, recently paroled felon who blames Billy Bob for his wife's death. To top it off, Billy Bob suffers from guilt over the accidental killing of his best friend as well as nightmarish memories of Vietnam. It's only a matter of time before the powder keg blows. Those who relish Burke's patented mix of supercharged violence and overheated passions are in for a treat. (June 18) Forecast: While not quite in the same league as Purple Cane Road, this entry is likely to scale bestseller lists as well. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

The New York Times James Lee Burke writes exceptionally clean, unforced prose that has a pronounced streak of poetry in it.

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