After finding himself caught up in one of Louisiana’s oldest and bloodiest family rivalries, Detective Dave Robicheaux must battle the most terrifying adversary he has ever encountered: a time-traveling superhuman assassin.
Burke has concocted his usual gumbo of thrills and chills, stirred it with gusto and seasoned it with plenty of local superstition and rumor. What makes these books so enduring (this is the 23rd Robicheaux novel) and the storytelling so seductive is that Burke has the voice to do justice to the region’s ancient curses and its modern crimes.
... a wild ride with a lot of potholes, but it’s always entertaining ... Burke has always written terrific dialogue, and he maintains his reputation here. He also writes lyrical description and deep-rooted character analysis. Those are here, too, but sometimes, he seems to use them as vamps while he figures out where the story is going next. While a substantial amount of time passes during the tale, we’re never certain how much, and because the multiple themes and plot lines intertwine so heavily, the cause-effect relationship is hard to follow ... The book’s denouement is as over-the-top as the helicopter sequence in Apocalypse Now or the destruction of the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s like sitting in the front row of a concert by The Who. Once your hearing is gone, who cares how much longer the band plays? Burke makes it all work for those willing to go along for the ride, but that may be easier for readers of his earlier works than it would be for newcomers ... Burke’s frequent classical allusions work perfectly here with his otherworldly hitman and monstrously evil gangsters, and the story achieves a satisfying resolution, moral or divine justice where everyone gets what he or she deserves, whether or not the earthbound courts would agree.
... typical Robicheaux villains, each of them annoyingly privileged (from Dave’s point of view) and blithely violent toward ordinary folks. But A Private Cathedral takes the Burke sensibility a step beyond. It’s a bizarre novel: a hyper-violent, phantasmagorical fever dream clothed in the livery of a whodunit ... a significant deviation from the author’s customary plot construction. All Burke’s previous antagonists have been vicious villains indeed, but of the flesh-and-blood variety. Some fans of the Robicheaux series may be discomfited by the 83-year-old Burke’s drift into horror-tinged speculative fiction. But even so, his skill at creating an authentic sense of place remains reassuringly intact ... this latter-day knight errant is a steadfast and persistent missionary for his higher power. Still, it tends to get old, and in this book, for the first time in this reviewer’s experience with the series, it stands out as overkill. But if you stay around for the ending, it’s as slam-bang, heart-pounding, bloody, and incendiary as a Michael Bay flick.