James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux books never disappoint. One that stands out to me is A Stained White Radiance. I don’t necessarily think it’s the best crime novel I’ve ever read, though I’m confident that one of Burke’s is (I just don’t know which). The reason I’d call this the coolest crime novel I’ve read is that it showed me that crime novels can survive with strong characters and atmosphere, even if the plot is very simple. This book is not a great mystery, nor is it a great detective novel. But it has passion and heart. Mr. Burke puts everything he has into every paragraph. His amazing ability at describing the settings in Louisiana is well chronicled and well deserved. His character development is equal to it, and it’s on display in this novel. Whether it be Dave’s simultaneous loyalty and disgust with the troubled and troubling Sonnier family, or his relationship with his wife Bootsie and adopted daughter Alafair, Burke makes you care about what happens from page to page. Descriptions of Alafair playing kickball are as vivid as the violent actions of Dave’s best buddy, the hardnosed and likeable Clete Purcel. The plot with the Sonniers, the mob, and a local political assassination attempt take a back seat to Dave’s concerns about Bootsie’s lupus, his odd relationship with each Sonnier sibling, and his friendship with Clete. And the final scene of the novel with Alafair’s near encounter with a shark is the most beautiful ending I’ve ever read in a novel.