Missoula’s illustrious mystery writer returns to Texas and the violence-prone Holland clan for a tender look at first love, imperiled (of course).
James Lee Burke deftly recreates the 1950s in Houston, a city and a country rising from the chaos of World War II. Teenage Aaron Holland spies Valerie Epstein in a pink Cadillac, eating French fries, and falls “joyously, sick-down-in-your-soul in love.”
He simultaneously finds himself crosswise with her soon-to-be ex, Grady Harrelson, son of one of the richest men in Houston. It doesn’t help that his best friend, Saber Bledsoe, has a penchant for challenging authority, and for driving them both “into the belly of the beast.”
As Valerie and Aaron slip into love, their idyllic trajectory keeps getting interrupted. The city’s superficial delights are dimmed by encounters with the Mob and a shadowy Aryan group, trying to recruit kids and send them to “summer camp.”
“The difference between Jews and gentiles isn’t a religious one,” Valerie tells Aaron. “The difference is in our knowledge of what human begins are capable of.”
Saber and Aaron manage to rile up Vick Atlas at a downtown club. “Minutes earlier we had been worried about dealing with a collection of spoiled rich kids; now we were a few feet away from men who fixed prizefights and trafficked in narcotics and prostitution and committed murder for no other reason than greed.”
The New York Times Book Review calls the Edgar Award-winning author “the reigning champ of nostalgia noir.” Like the rest of his novels, The Jealous Kind continues to plunge into our darkest and brightest hearts, matching up justice and loyalty with greed and violence. The good guys don’t always win. But they always put up a good fight.
– Kristi Niemeyer