Rain Gods

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 June, 2010, 12:00am

Rain Gods
by James Lee Burke
Phoenix, HK$104

People occasionally complain that James Lee Burke writes the same novel over and over again. Sometimes this includes his fans, who say the complaint is also a form of praise. No complaint at all can be made of Rain Gods. A standalone novel without Burke's most famous creation, Dave Robicheaux, it is driven by a terrific, page-turning plot (the mass murder of Thai women on the Mexican border) and some of his finest prose. How about this description of his hero, 74-year-old cop Hackberry Holland, shortly after discovering the atrocity? Standing under a shower, he tries to scald the scene from his mind. 'But the odour of the disinterred bodies had followed him into his sleep, trailing with him through the next day into the following twilight, into the onset of darkness, the hills flickering with electricity...' Holland's nemesis is like someone from the underworld. Preacher Jack Collins sees himself as avenging wrongdoing across the land. Collins' evil-doing is offset by one of Burke's most likable characters: Holland's deputy Pam Tibbs, who doubles as pragmatic conscience and love interest. Rain Gods is Burke at his finest - and that is just about the finest thing going.