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Every Cloak Rolled in Blood


Every Cloak Rolled in Blood

I have always considered James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux thrillers to be one of the best crime series on the market today. His latest masterpiece, EVERY CLOAK ROLLED IN BLOOD, reads like a stand-alone novel but is actually the fourth entry in his epic Holland family saga.

As 85-year-old novelist Aaron Holland Broussard gazes out at the horizon from the veranda of his Montana ranch house, this tranquil moment is interrupted by a red Ford F-150 that pulls up to his driveway. A young man jumps from the rear tailgate and proceeds to paint a swastika on his barn door, urinate in his cattle guard, and return to the truck as he and another individual speed off while flipping Aaron the bird. He has no idea who these people are or why they performed such a lewd act on his property, but he is determined to find out.

"EVERY CLOAK ROLLED IN BLOOD is a deep, soulful, spiritual novel that is unlike anything I have ever read by James Lee Burke. It also blends moments of sheer supernatural terror in ways I never expected."

State Trooper Ruby Spotted Horse takes Aaron’s statement and is convinced that the men he describes are white supremacists --- a father and his son who live in the area. He also shares that he is mourning the recent death of his daughter, Fannie Mae. Because she was such a kind, giving person and lover of all things --- especially animals --- he tries to go out of his way to continue her good work. He goes into town and confronts John Fenimore Culpepper, the father of the boy who vandalized his property. He agrees not to press charges if they repaint his barn. From what Aaron can tell, Culpepper assumed he was a rich Hollywood type, which is where the former Klansman’s hatred of him comes from.

Aaron spends his nights at his ranch contemplating suicide while crying out for Fannie Mae, hoping for a sign that she might be listening. His wish will come true in a most unexpected way after he visits Ruby at her house. While there, he hears what sounds like a huge force slamming against the cellar door. When he goes to investigate, he only finds some broken bottles of preserves. According to Ruby, they exploded due to spontaneous combustion. But he doesn’t buy that explanation, especially when he picks up a note from the floor that looks like it came from a child. Whoever wrote it is begging for help.

Aaron learns from Ruby that her special cellar is a portal to another world --- that of the dead. He is far more open to believing this as Fannie Mae now regularly visits him and interacts with him throughout the rest of the novel, making for some remarkably powerful scenes. He also is concerned that there may have been someone in Ruby’s basement, so he goes to tribal police headquarters to inquire about that. Ironically, he speaks to Ray Bronson, who just happens to be Ruby’s ex-husband. Bronson thinks she is crazy and that her cellar is just a cellar.

This visit will get back to Ruby, who confronts Aaron and confesses not only what is going on in her cellar, but what is coming soon to the area. A great reckoning of Old People, as she refers to them, are returning to the earth in the form of Major Eugene Baker, an infamous killer of Native Americans. He was responsible for what became known as the Marias Massacre in 1870, and his spirit has returned to Montana to infect the land and certain inhabitants of the Bitterroot region.

What transpires in the final third of the book is quite trippy and at times will question the boundaries of reality for both readers and all the characters involved in this tense narrative. At one point, Ruby shows Aaron a running video on her TV that appears to show scenes of nonstop violent events throughout history, even episodes from his own experiences during the war. A judgment is coming to the area; the blood-soaked, smoke-scorched Montana earth will leave no one unscathed and few alive to tell the tale of what they witnessed. The finale needs to be experienced and goes far beyond what can be described here.

EVERY CLOAK ROLLED IN BLOOD is a deep, soulful, spiritual novel that is unlike anything I have ever read by James Lee Burke. It also blends moments of sheer supernatural terror in ways I never expected. The publisher’s About the Book copy states that this is Burke’s most autobiographical novel to date. If that is indeed the case, then he has led a far more interesting life than any of us ever suspected.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 10, 2022

Every Cloak Rolled in Blood
by James Lee Burke

  • Publication Date: May 23, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1982196602
  • ISBN-13: 9781982196608