Although XOXOAD features a lot of romance fiction in our daily diet, one cannot live by roses and chocolate alone. Sometimes you need something a bit sterner, a bit edgier, something that feeds a different part of your soul–your inner badass! So watch this week for posts reminding us that even when life (and books, and TV) gets rough, there are writers out there who understand.

We started with our Orphan Black recap, but today we’re presenting something very different: the crime novels of James Lee Burke. In addition to being a New York Times bestselling author, Burke was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers Association–he’s been called one of our greatest living crime writers, alongside authors like Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly. Burke is best known for his series protagonist, Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux, a man with a checkered past but a strong sense of justice. Recently, the first two books in his Robicheaux series were made newly available in e-book:

THE NEON RAIN is Robicheaux’s debut, though not Burke’s–however, it does mark the start of his career-making series. Detective Robicheaux has fought too many battles: in Vietnam, with killers and hustlers, with police brass, and with the bottle. Lost without his wife’s love, Robicheaux’s haunted soul mirrors the intensity and dusky mystery of New Orleans’ French Quarter — the place he calls home, and the place that nearly destroys him when he becomes involved in the case of a young prostitute whose body is found in a bayou. Thrust into the world of drug lords and arms smugglers, Robicheaux must face down a subterranean criminal world and come to terms with his own bruised heart in order to survive.

HEAVEN’S PRISONERS finds Robicheaux struggling to get clean and recover from his experience in Vietnam.  He’s turned in his detective’s badge and left New Orleans for the tranquil beauty of Louisiana’s bayous. But a plane crash on the Gulf brings a young girl into his life — and with her comes a netherworld of murder, deception, and homegrown crime. Suddenly Robicheaux is confronting Bubba Rocque, a brutal hood he’s known since childhood; Rocque’s hungry Cajun wife; and a federal agent with more guts than sense.

One of the elements that most distinguishes Burke from his colleagues on the crime bookshelves is his beautifully spare, evocative writing. You can see it even in his earliest works, some of which are newly in print after years of being unavailable. If you’re not necessarily a detective fan and prefer a literary read, you might enjoy TO THE BRIGHT AND SHINING SUN, a gritty coming-of-age story about a young Kentucky miner growing up in the Appalachian mountains who’s torn between his family life and the lure of the city. It shares the hallmarks of all Burke’s writing: a lone protagonist, seemingly without much power, who must find the strength to resist injustice.

I hope you’ll give Burke a try, and join the ranks of readers who can’t wait to snap up his newest suspense novel when it hits the shelves!