Under the Bright Lights
The Bayou Trilogy
Daniel Woodrell
Mulholland Books 2011


Nothing like a Hollywood movie to resurrect an author’s back catalogue. This is the case of Daniel Woodrell (Winter’s Bone starring Jennifer Lawrence). His first three mysteries, Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do are now available in the appropriately titled The Bayou Trilogy. The first book, Under the Bright Lights is a decent read.

If you liked James Lee Burke before Robicheaux wallowed in self-pity on one page and Clete Purcell went around cracking skulls on the other, you are going to enjoy Under the Bright Lights, the first of three novels featuring Detective Rene Shade.

This mystery of sorts is the loosely told story of a young bum named Jewel Cobb. Jewel is new to St-Bruno, Louisiana. This is why his cousin thinks him the perfect patsy for a hit on a local porn theater owner. Killing the theater owner is related to the killing of a promising councilman and the awarding of a contract for a Music Center. The details are on the fuzzy side.

Detective Rene Shade is assigned the murder of the councilman and pressured to declare it a burglary gone wrong. He is also the detective in charge of the porn theater killing. Shade learns a young, blonde guy was seen running away. He follows Jewel Cobb s trace and this leads to a confrontation in the bayou.

Daniel Woodrell is excellent on atmospherics and Under the Bright Lights features some very beautiful passages. He is less solid when it comes to plotting and Rene Shade is a work in progress.

At 160 pages, the first mystery in The Bayou Trilogy is a taste of things to come.

The Bayou Trilogy backpages feature an interview with Daniel Woodrell and a rather lame Reading Group Guide with high school level questions.