Bitterroot cover334 Pages
Written by James Lee Burke, two time Edgar Award winner.
Third book in the Billy Bob Holland Series.


First of all, if you haven’t read any of Burke’s work, you must immediately run out and do so. He is fantastic, easily ranking within my top-five list of present-day authors. He combines the best of three distinctive writing styles; hard-boiled detective fiction, regional writing, and literary prose. His characters are gritty, multi-dimensional, and have character arcs that extend throughout the series, allowing them to slowly grow over time. Although he uses a repetition of themes, his improvising on those themes never becomes stale, and unlike most series sets that burn out by book three, when you buy a Burke book, you always get your money’s worth. Critics have compared his writing style to William Faulkner.

Burke’s first series focuses on a Vietnam vet, ex New Orleans detective, and part-time private eye named Dave Robicheaux. Haunted by his war experiences and coping with alcoholism, Dave still manages to come through his adventures, and gradually learns to cope with his past – building both a family and future for himself.

In much the same set-up, Billy Bob Holland is an ex Texas Ranger who carries the guilt of having killed his own partner during a gunfight with Mexican drug runners. Putting away the badge, Billy Bob becomes a defense lawyer, and seeks to put his violent past behind him, but finds himself followed by his ex partner’s ghost (literally).


An old friend and ex special forces Vietnam war hero, Doc Voss, calls Billy Bob from Montana and invites him to visit for an apparently innocent fly-fishing vacation in the Bitterroot Valley. Once there, however, Billy Bob finds that Doc is caught up in a battle with corporate interests intent on exploiting the area – using cyanide in their gold mining and poisoning the valley’s water. Also involved are a drug-running biker gang, an enclave of white supremacists, and a psychopathic ex-con who has followed Billy Bob to Montana and holds the ex Texas Ranger personally responsible for his sister’s death. Rather a delicate situation.

Then, Doc’s daughter is brutally gang-raped by three bikers.

When the three bikers end up gruesomely murdered soon thereafter, all eyes turn to Doc, and Billy Bob must try and clear his friend of the murder charges.

This is complicated by the fact that Billy Bob’s son and Temple Carrol, Billy Bob’s love-interest, decide to join him on his fly-fishing vacation. They refuse to leave, putting themselves at risk as well.

In typical hard-boiled detective fashion, Billy Bob blunders a number of times, but gradually solves the interwoven clues to realize who really murdered the three bikers.

Along the way are a number of interesting characters, including an alcoholic writer with two Edgar Awards that reads as a caricatured offshoot of the author, James Lee Burke, himself.
This novel’s prose is gritty in spots, lyrical in others, and entertaining the whole way through. Definitely a must-read series.