The coveted Tip of the Ice Pick award for June's mystery of the month goes to (drum roll . . . the envelope, please) mystery icon James Lee Burke. Burke came to prominence with his Dave Robicheaux series, which included the bestsellers Heaven's Prisoners and The Neon Rain. His latest, Bitterroot, features ongoing character Billy Bob Holland, a rural lawyer and ex-Texas Ranger. Normally a taciturn man, Holland has been known to open up a can of spicy Texan whup-ass in times of necessity, and a trip to Bitterroot, Montana, in aid of a friend affords him ample opportunity. In the course of his travels, Holland will have to come to terms with his demons: his overly developed sense of right and wrong, his embattled relationships with his loved ones and the ghost of his former partner, for whose death Holland feels responsible. In equal measure cerebral and physical, Burke's books are rich and satisfying, and Bitterroot is among his best. It will appeal to his legions of current fans, and may well pick up a few stragglers from the Louis L'Amour crowd as well.


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