In The Electric Mist With Confederate Dead is a novel by James Lee Burke. It came recommended to me by a friend. He described it as No Country for Old Men, Louisiana edition. The book is part of a series featuring Dave Robicheaux, a law enforcement character. I came into his character uninitiated. This is the first book in the series I have read.
This book was made into a movie titled “In The Electric Mist”. The friend who recommended it had seen the movie. However, he had not read the book. I have read the book, but have not seen the movie. The “No Country” connection escaped me. I have seen that movie and read the book.
Overall I enjoyed the book. I’m going to break this review into two parts. While listening to the audiobook, I found part of the story to be detachable. Thus, I’ll remove it and treat it separately.
In The Electric Mist
Dave Robicheaux is a small town cop. However, he seems to have formerly been a New Orleans police officer. At some point he returned to his small hometown before this story begins. He is also a recovering alcoholic.
Elrod Sykes is a movie star. Dave Robicheaux arrests him on DUI charges early in the book. Elrod is in the small town of New Iberia shooting a movie. He is currently an alcoholic.
Baby Feet Balboni is a mobster. However, he is a childhood friend of officer Robicheaux’. Thus, they have a complicated relationship that plays out in the book. These are the three main characters.
There are two murders being investigated early in the book. The first is a young lady who was found mutilated in a ditch. The second, a black man whose body was found in the swamp by Sykes. He had been dead for decades.
More dead girls turn up later. Robicheaux is investigating that case. He suspects Baby Feet Balboni but has no real evidence. Balboni, however, once saved Robicheaux’ life so he seems to hope it’s not him. Further complicating matters, Robicheaux believes he actually witnessed the murder of the black man whose body was discovered by Sykes.
Robicheaux eventually solves the case with the help of a young, attractive female FBI agent. However, his daughter gets kidnapped by the killer. There’s an intense scene near the end as the book climaxes.
Burke does a good job of character development. All of his relationships seem to be complicated, except his marriage. He’s viewed with suspicion at work. Furthermore, he likes Elrod but keeps him at arms length due to his alcoholism. Additionally, there’s tension with the FBI agent over differing motivations. He is able to resolve these conflicts and solve the case.
With Confederate Dead
The Confederate dead complicate the book for me. Basically, there’s a regiment of ghosts of Confederate soldiers in the woods. General John Bell Hood communicates first with Sykes, later with Robicheaux. He helps to solve the case.
The presence of the ghosts is completely unnecessary to the story. Moreover, I felt like they detracted from the story. Furthermore, they pushed a good detective book more into the fantasy category. I would’ve enjoyed the book more without them.
In one scene, Robicheaux poses with the Confederate dead for a photo. Later, his family sees the picture in a book. They recognize him, but don’t bring it up. The scene is neat. That was the only constructive addition I felt that they added to the story.
In The Electric Mist With Confederate Dead
Despite my issues with the ghosts, I really enjoyed this story. Burke creates compelling characters and sets them in a great plot. Robicheaux is a flawed but likeable character. There is suspense, action, and drama. I was thoroughly entertained. You can find the audiobook here.