The latest installment in James Lee Burke's Holland family saga has aspiring novelist Aaron Broussard jumping off a train he hopped and landing in Denver, where he meets a beautiful art student involved with a shady professor tied to a drug-addled cult. As Aaron tries to rescue the woman he loves, he faces dark forces—some human and some not.
It is not long before various elements, which by turns work with and against each other, collide in a cataclysmic event that changes everything for Aaron and those around him, for better and for worse. I was initially disappointed in the book’s conclusion because it seemed somewhat abrupt and incomplete. But on reflection, the story set forth in this volume is not one that lends itself to neat endings or easy answers. It is all the more lifelike or real-world because of it, bittersweet but still full of hope as always. Another Kind of Eden features some of Burke’s best prose—the man’s wordcraft, even at this late date, is awe-inspiring—and his characters are unforgettable. You will want to put this book at the very top of your must-read list if you haven’t already.
... [the] dance between the harsh beauty of the landscape and the thrum of violence...is vintage Burke ... In many of Burke’s books, he breaches the curtain between what we think of as the real world and the past, the supernatural, the alternative, whatever lies on the other side. In Another Kind of Eden he sweeps that curtain back like a theater impresario, inviting the reader into a potent vision of the battle between good and evil that animates all his fiction.
Burke tells his story in something of a stylistic pastiche. His descriptions of the landscape and Aaron’s longing for a lost paradise echo John Steinbeck, Thomas Wolfe, and William Faulkner, while his dialogue, particularly when Aaron clashes with local villain Rueben Vickers and his son, Darrel, has a distinct Raymond Chandler/Ross Macdonald hardboiled tone to it. However, it’s difficult to know exactly how to approach this novel. Fans of Burke’s crime fiction will be pleased with Aaron’s darkness and with Wade Benbow, a chewed-up local detective who’s battling cancer and personal loss while trying to keep the peace and track down a murderer. Those interested in historical fiction will appreciate his portrait of rural and small-town Colorado in 1962 as drugs begin to enter the region, along with the dissolute culture and depressing loss of life that go along with them. However, beyond the historical element and the crime fiction slant, the ending of the novel will cause problems for many readers ... a challenging tale by an accomplished master of crime fiction. Fans of James Lee Burke will need to curb their expectations before reading this one, because their author has more in mind for his story than might meet the eye on a superficial level.