Jolie Blon’s Bounce

Jolie Blon’s Bounce cover349 Pages.
Written by James Lee Burke,
two time Edgar Award winner. Book eleven in the Dave Robicheaux series.


Dave Robicheaux is a Police Detective, formerly of the New Orleans P.D., but more recently, with the smaller, rural area of New Iberia. He is a recovering alcoholic, he owns a bait and boat rental on the bayou, he is married, has an adopted daughter, and in the style of other hard-boiled detectives, he goes toe to toe with some of the most vicious scumbags you could imagine. Also, if you saw his one and only film portrayal in 1996’s “Heaven’s Prisoners” with Alec Baldwin, he’s a hell of a lot more interesting than Baldwin’s portrayal might have made him seem.

As I stated in my previous review of Bitterroot, Burke is one of my favorite authors. I was afraid that he had abandoned his Dave Robicheaux series to concentrate on the Billy Bob Holland series (set in Montana). Or, that he’d switched to the Holland series because he felt that he was burned out on Robicheaux and that consequent Robicheaux books would only be re-treads of his former material.

Nothing could be further from the truth. His latest installment is a great read – possibly the best of the summer.

Jolie Blon’s Bounce refers to a version of the well-known zydeco tune “Jolie Blon.” It’s also the signature piece of Tee Bobby Hulin – a drug-addicted hustler and murder suspect who’s the most gifted musician that Dave Robicheaux has ever heard. Although Robicheaux believes Tee Bobby is innocent, he must first sweep aside the cobwebs surrounding the histories of several Louisiana families before he can get at the truth. At the same time, Robicheaux must confront his own addiction once again, avoid antagonizing local mob figures, and escape the evil intentions of a former plantation overseer who might be possessed by demons! Like the song of his title, Burke’s novel weaves together the familiar threads of southern Louisiana, but improvises on the harmony to give us something unique and new.


Amanda Boudreau, a sixteen year old white honor student, is brutally raped, then shotgunned to death. Her boyfriend is less than helpful in identifying the murderers, but because he was found tied-up at the scene, he can’t be the shooter. Circumstantial evidence points to Tee Bobby Hulin, a black, drug-addicted, blues guitarist whom Detective Robicheaux knows couldn’t have been the shooter. But Tee Bobby won’t tell him anything because he’s afraid of someone or something…

Then, a prostitute is beaten to death with equal viciousness. This particular prostitute, however, happens to be the estranged daughter of Joe Zeroski, a notorious mob hitman. All eyes turn to Tee Bobby as the most likely culprit. Now, Robicheaux must work to solve the case before the law gives Tee Bobby the needle or Zeroski uses his contacts to have the young blues singer quietly disappeared.

Tee Bobby’s grandmother, Ladice, hints that Tee Bobby’s troubles started before he was even born, and Robicheaux begins digging into the evils done in past generations. He discovers that Ladice was a worker on a sugarcane plantation and had an affair with Julian LaSalle, the owner. LaSalle’s recognized grandson is a prominent defense attorney…Tee Bobby’s defense attorney. Could it be that Tee Bobby is the illegitimate grandson of Julian and that a family cover-up is in the works?

Robicheaux tries to dig deeper and discovers that Legion Guidry, the 74-year-old former Lasalle Plantation’s overseer, is still around and living out in the bayou. Legion is talked about in hushed whispers. It is said that he raped whatever black women he wanted when he lived on the plantation (possibly including Ladice), that he has supernatural strength, and that his name is a biblical reference to the book of Mark – to the demon-possessed man that Jesus freed of his curse – only Legion has never had a visit from Jesus. For his meddling, Legion surprises Robicheaux late one night, stepping out of the shadows to give him the worst, most humiliating beating of his entire life.

Returning from the hospital afterwards, Robicheaux embarks on the vengeance trail, determined to solve his case and square things with Legion. But the case continues to elude him, and the beating has weakened Robicheaux, making him turn to painkillers to avoid using alcohol, his drug of choice.

Bootsie, his wife, tries to comfort Robicheaux, but it does little good.

Here I must make a sidenote: Burke’s obligatory love scene on page 116-117 is better than in previous books where everything concludes with the metaphor of a dam bursting. It was beginning to feel cliché, and I was afraid he would use it once more, but he didn’t. Good work! Also, this is about the only thing I thought of to nitpick on and he fixed it before I could even complain about it.

Clete Purcel, Robicheaux’s old sidekick, tries to help his buddy out, but instead, he seems to pour kerosene on the fire.

And things grow even more complicated when a couple of different drifters come into the picture. The first one, Marvin Oates, a goofy yet suspicious Bible salesman, seems to keep cropping up in the wrong places. Then, there’s Sal, an ex-soldier who claims to have saved Robicheaux’s life in Vietnam, but whose fingerprints cannot be matched to any military records and who somehow keeps appearing like some kind of ghost or guardian angel.
Everyone seems to know more than Robicheaux, but through grit and determination, he slowly begins to piece things together. “What happens?” you ask.

Read the book.