Books for late summer reading and browsing

James Lee Burke is the author of 32 novels many of which feature his longtime protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, a former Louisiana detective. What has propelled the series over the years is the crisp, direct nature of Burke’s prose.

His latest is, “Light of the World” (Simon and Schuster) is a great addition to the series. Here, we find Robicheaux and his longtime friend and partner, Cletus Purcell on vacation in Montana for some R and R, and a little fishing.

Everything is going along fairly well until a high powered hunting arrow nicks the ear of Robicheaux’s daughter, Alafair, while she’s out jogging one morning. Next, Purcell’s daughter, up in Montana for a visit gets on the wrong side of a not particularly savory local cop.

There’s someone who might be a serial killer apparently stalking Alafair and things spiral out of control.

What makes the book come alive, and the pages fly by, is the strength of Burke’s characters and his wily sure-footed prose that pulls them into situations that the reader also funds compelling.

Conjuring the sheer physical beauty of Montana, Burke also shows us that beauty and horror can often go hand in hand in this thing we call life. In the opening chapter Burke notes that he was “never good at solving mysteries,” not the kind that you see on TV or read about in other mysteries, bur rather tales of “evil, without capitalization.”

When he tells us that “this is a tale that maybe I shouldn’t share. But it’s not one I want to keep inside me,” we are hooked and off we go.

On a completely different from is “Curiosity and Method: Ten Years of Cabinet Magazine” Cabinet is one of my favorite quarterly magazines. One self-described as “the best thing to come out of Brooklyn since my grandmother.”

It’s an art magazine of sorts, but the art it covers is how things are connected in fresh and often unexpected ways.

The anthology is a 528-page compendium, an encyclopedia of sorts, organized alphabetically. Some of the entries include animal architecture, balloon art, the U.S./Mexico border fence, cat drawings that show the dissolution possible in a psychotic breakdown, forgeries in the art historical tradition, loss, levitation, taboos, tourism and the language of bees.

This is a great book to have sitting on your coffee table and dip into at random, pick an entry that catches your eye and see where it takes you; how a section on paths can take you from a diagram of the labyrinth in Chartres cathedral to Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” and the floor plan layouts of Ikea.

Kirk Robertson covers the Churchill Arts Council scene.


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