June 11, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

In The Moon Of Red Ponies

Current Status
In Season
James Lee Burke
We gave it a B+

Ghosts, dreams, and post-9/11 paranoia intermingle in Burke’s new novel featuring ex-Texas Ranger Billy Bob Holland. Newly settled into a tranquil life as a defense lawyer and horse rancher in Montana, Billy Bob must contend with the release of sociopathic rodeo clown Wyatt Dixon, whom he’d helped send up for murdering a neo-Nazi biker. Worse, Billy Bob’s friend Johnny American Horse, a Gulf War hero and accused ecoterrorist prone to drunken rampages and mystical visions, has run afoul of the feds, the politician father of his girlfriend, and one Darrel McComb, a thuggish detective with a violent past. Soon, all four are entangled with a shadowy biotech firm and corporate/government baddies with Mideast ties. The plot unfurls few major surprises, but readers will savor Burke’s lyrical prose and finely shaded psychological tension as Billy Bob and his cohorts teeter between idealism and brutality.

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