Burke-James Lee, Fiction, Mystery

#723 House of the Rising Sun by James Lee Burke

House of the Rising Sun by James Lee BurkeHouse of the Rising Sun by James Lee Burke

Holland Hackberry is a Texas Ranger from the days when Texas Rangers could exact justice using their own judgement without having to wait for the legal system to catch up. He rode his horse across the desert and looked for the bad guys. These days he’s looking for his son, Ishmael.

Instead of finding his son, Holland finds a woman running a brothel out in the desert who used to run a place in New Orleans called The House of the Rising Sun. He interrupts an arms deal. He blows up the guns and takes the loot, a fancy chalice. Holland goes back home, empty-handed, besides the cup.

Because of these actions, people are after Holland, when all he wants to do is reacquaint himself with his son, who is grown and in the army now. Ishmael’s mother is a woman named Ruby. She is much younger than Holland, but Holland loved her and Ruby loved him, but Holland was not an easy man to live with. It didn’t help that he was still married to a woman named Maggie, a woman of ill-repute associated with many terrible men.

The man coming after Holland finds the people Holland loves and tries to go after them to. The woman from The House of the Rising Sun tells Holland that he is chosen. With the help of a man who seems like a zombie, Holland faces off against an evil, evil man, possibly the most evil man, in a world that is becoming increasingly more modern, but still holds some ancient mysteries.

What I liked

I thought that this book was going to be a standard western when I started reading it. It’s not. It’s a western, but it has this flair of supernatural running through it. Sometimes, that’s what makes the best westerns.

I once had a video game, for the original Playstation, that was a western, but it was also about vampires. Vampires had infiltrated the old west. It was a very intriguing idea. The west was a land where tough people went to live in the dry mystery land. These people had to learn to uphold the law themselves and walk among the terrain and traditions of the area. Maybe, there was a lot of supernatural stuff going on.

Westerns are something so American that we generally don’t put the supernatural in with it, because we’re being too logical, but really, the west could also be a place peppered with the supernatural–ghosts, chants, strange creatures, and unexplained phenomena are just a few of the things you might associate with the west. It’s basically UFO city for the United States and rocks in Death Valley move by themselves. How do you get more supernatural than that?

Most of the characters were really interesting. No one was all good. No one was all bad. Everybody’s story was of interest. There was no one person in the entire book that you wouldn’t want to know more about.

What I didn’t like

Surprisingly, I really liked this book.


There was a house in New Orleans…

Weigh In

Do you like Westerns?

Is there any story-telling tradition in the United States that is more American than a western?


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