Friday, March 9, 2012

Feast Day of Fools

James Lee Burke

The latest in James Lee Burke's Hackberry Holland series finds the nearly eighty year old west Texas sheriff involved with the kidnapping of an engineer who has the entire plan of the Predator drone in his head. From this improbable premise a mountain of improbabilities is built, which the reader may scarcely notice, while the suspense rolls on.

The idea that one person could sit down with a pencil an a piece of paper and draw out a set of plans which would allow Alkaida to build it's own homemade Predator, which Noeie Barnum is purported to be capable of, is an absurd idea. This provides the motivation for the FBI, a familiar Russian crime boss, the son of a former US Senator and a couple of Mexican coyotes to cause a lot of chaos in Hackberry Holland's county. Everybody is looking for this guy. Most want to sell him, and his talents, to the highest bidder.

It takes a while to find him, of course, because he is hiding out with the equally improbable Preacher Jack Collins, Holland's nemesis, a scruffy mad serial killer who lives out of dumpsters and goodwill stores, and, by the way, is a very rich man, with no explainable means of support, that can have a new Toyota delivered to him at a truck stop and hire unreliable Mexican criminals to screw up his plans, whatever he needs.

Three quarters of the way through the book, Burke seems to tire of Noeie Barnum as a device and summarily dismisses him from the story. By this time, another character "La Magdelena," a Cambodian woman who runs a way station for illegal aliens who have just crossed the border, has been kidnapped and taken to Mexico by the Russians, who plan to trade her for Barnum, who is now being held in "protective custody" in Holland's jail. Holland, turns Barnum loose and tells him to hitch hike out of his county, teams up with Jack Collins to invade their heavily guarded compound and rescue her, thus ending the book on a highly ambiguous note.

Feast Day of Fools is highly flawed and illogical. It is also a great page turner, full of unspeakable violence, if you like that sort of thing.


  1. You have not convinced me to try again. I prefer Jan Burke's series set, more or less, in Long Beach, CA. Have your read any of those?

  2. Yes, Jan is a super writer, just like her dad. His books are getting to be more and more over the top, though.

  3. Jan Burke is no relation to James Lee. His daughter who is a novelist has another name entirely.

  4. Alafair Burke! Who woulda thunk it?

  5. He wrote a rather bizarre series that I got hooked on one summer. I'm tempted to run a search, but it's more fun to let my brain work on it while I forget about it. It will probably pop into my head during a reading lesson or some other inopportune time!


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