Review: A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke


A Private Cathedral is the 23rd entry in James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series. Robicheaux, a Louisiana police detective, has spent decade fighting the good fight against the changing times and the powerful/evil men behind it.

The latest entry finds Robicheaux caught in a war between a pair of powerful families (again) and, bizarrely enough, a time travelling assassin. With Clete Purcell by his side, Robicheaux cuts a swatch of destruction through south Louisiana as he tries to save a star-crossed teenagers from the warring families.

As a born and raised resident of south Louisiana, I love the Robicheaux series. I know the places he goes and the people he interacts with. I can place myself in the books. They’re immersive for me.

My Thoughts

That being said, with Robicheaux being a Vietnam era vet, the longer the series goes on the harder it becomes to believe Dave and Clete as the vital “Bobbsey Twins from Homicide” that they were in the earlier books in the series. It is a problem that plagues any long running detective series.

Burke has arrived at a brilliant solution to this very problem. A Private Cathedral takes place in the past, between previous Robicheaux adventures. This a great way to keep the series going and the protagonist vital in his twilight years.

No discussion of this book would be complete without a mention of the previously mentioned time travelling assassin, Gideon Richetti. Whether Richetti is actually a time traveller, a manifestation of Dave’s Catholic guilt or his DTs, he is one of the most memorable foes in the Robicheaux canon. He gets inside of the heads of our protagonist and doesn’t let go until the final pages of the story. Richetti is sure to stick with you long after you’re done with the book.

Over the past few years, I’ve felt like Mr. Burke was trying to find a way to put Dave out to pasture for good. After reading A Private Cathedral, I feel confident that Streak is going to be fighting the good fight for years.

And that’s good new podnah.

A Private Cathedral is available now wherever you buy your books.

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