Too Many Fools, Too Little Time

Feast Day Of Fools (Hackberry Holland, #3)Feast Day Of Fools by James Lee Burke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The 1890 U.S. Census was the first to report that all of the territory of the United States had been charted. As the twentieth century dawned, and technology created more and more ways to connect people to the government, from utility service to cellular phones to IP addresses, there were fewer and fewer ways to stay “off the grid.”

All three of James Lee Burke’s main characters (Dave Robicheaux, Billy Bob Holland and Hackberry Holland) find their lives intersecting with unsavory characters who revel in their ability to stay hidden, even in the twenty-first century. Hackberry Holland is in some ways the flattest of the three characters, as he carries around all of Robicheaux’s rage without the lapses in judgment that make the Robicheaux novels bristle with tension. While “Feast Day of Fools” fits right in with the Burke tradition of providing an amusing collection of villains, the way that Hackberry and his deputy, Pam, skate around the plot push this book more toward what I would call a “spaghetti mystery,” in the grand tradition of the “spaghetti Western.”

Don’t get me wrong — the outrage that the murderer Preacher Jack Collins shows when the people who fall into conversation with him refer to the wrong literary device is genius, and the brief appearance of Eliado and Jaime, two bad guys who make the mistake of double-crossing the Preacher, had me casting about in my head for the two best actors to portray these knuckleheads.

You’ll love the way that Burke describes the very southwestern tip of Texas, and the northern parts of Mexico, which does indeed look more like features of the moon than anywhere else that this planet has to provide. And the scene where Hackberry convinces a bartender to give him information with a pool cue is up there with another Burke scene where Clete Purcel uses a fire hose inside a casino bathroom to completely humiliate (and soak) a greaseball who has been giving him a hard time.

But if you’re like me, you’ll end up wishing that Pam and Hackberry would either hook up or not, and you’ll realize that there are a few too many villains, and a few too many connections, such as the random appearance of the Predator drone and al Qaeda, to keep this latest work on track.

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