cover image Flags on the Bayou

Flags on the Bayou

James Lee Burke. Atlantic, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6169-7

Set in Louisiana toward the end of the Civil War, this outstanding thriller from Edgar winner Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series) explores the corrosive effects of violence. In late 1863, Louisiana is largely under Union control, though bands of marauding Confederate soldiers roam the countryside. Hannah Laveau, an enslaved woman reputed to be related to a notorious voodoo priestess, stands accused of murdering the sadistic plantation owner who assaulted her. In jail, she meets abolitionist schoolteacher Florence Milton, who takes Hannah under her wing. Eventually, the two women escape. On the run from slave catchers and a constable who doggedly pursues them, Hannah and Florence make their way across the devastated state. The chorus of narrators who recount the pair’s adventures includes Wade Lufkin, an artist and surgeon’s assistant haunted by the Union soldier he killed during battle, who crosses paths with the women and falls in love with Hannah. Burke stitches plot threads and historical details with ease, weaving it all into an urgent, propulsive story steeped in his deep personal connections to Louisiana. This is masterful. Agent: Anne-Lise Spitzer, Philip Spitzer Literary. (July)