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RAIN GODS - Reviews

2009, A Hackberry Holland novel

From Booklist 6/1/09
Burke brings back a character from one of his early novels, Lay Down My Sword and Shield (1971). Hackberry Holland, cousin to Billy Bob Holland, star of his own series, is the
sheriff of a sleepy Texas town near the Mexican border, the last stop for the aging Hack after a tumultuous personal
life and an up-and-down career as a politician and lawyer. His downshifted lifestyle is torn asunder when Hack discovers the bodies of nine illegal aliens, buried in a
shallow grave behind a church. The trail leads to a troubled Iraq vet, who knows something about the killings, and his
country-singer girlfriend, both now on the run from various baddies who want to make sure the kids don't tell anyone what they know. Hack and his deputy, Pam Tibbs, who has a romantic interest in her boss despite his insistence that he
is much too old for her, join the chase. It will come as no surprise to Burke fans to learn that the chief baddie is a seriously bent, Bible-spouting stone killer who sees Hack as the other side of his coin, but this is no by-the-numbers retread of familiar Burke tropes. Hackberry, more so than his cousin, Billy Bob, is his own man, shaped by the
unforgiving Texas soil the way Robicheaux bleeds bayou blue, less of a powder keg waiting to explode than Dave but, in Burke's signature phrase, still stand-up all the way. Burke fans will notice much that is familiar here-the lyricism, the minor key, the elegiac refrain-but the melody is new and
haunting. And, besides, you just have to love a guy with a name like Hackberry.- Bill Ott

Rain Gods James Lee Burke. Simon & Schuster, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4391-2824-4

MWA Grandmaster Burke spins a tale replete with colorful prose and epic confrontations in his second novel to feature smalltown Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland (after Lay Down My Sword and Shield). An anonymous phone call leads Holland, a Korean vet who survived a POW camp, to the massacre and burial site of nine Thai women, a crime that brings FBI and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials running. As a slew of bad guys relocated from New Orleans after Katrina grapple for advantage in new territory, mercurial killer “Preacher” Jack Collins finds plenty of work. Pete Flores, a possible witness to the massacre, and his girlfriend are targeted by Collins for elimination, and by the FBI for bait. Holland must protect the hapless Flores and his girl from both. Three strong female characters complement the full roster of sharply drawn lowlifes. The battle of wills and wits between Holland and Collins delivers everything Burke’s fans expect. (July)
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