Sadistic villains and interior demons plague Cajun police detective Dave Robicheaux as the murder of a local cop draws him into the painful conflicts of the Sonnier family, with whom he grew up near the bayous. Weldon Sonnier, an oil speculator perhaps involved with organized crime in New Orleans, is married to the sister of racist Louisiana politician Bobby Earl; Lyle Sonnier is a televangelist with a widely publicized gift of healing that antagonizes the detective, whose wife has lupus; Weldon and Lyle's sister, Drew, whom Robicheaux loved as a teenager, is New Iberia's liberal eccentric. Harshly abused as children, the Sonniers exert a strong pull on Robicheaux, whose desire to help pits him and his former New Orleans police department partner Cletus Purcel against southern Louisiana's fierce Mafia leader and his hired thugs, one of whom, Robicheaux observes, has a face with the ``moral depth and complexity of freshly poured cement.'' While attending AA meetings, trying to cope with both his response to his wife's illness and his moral rage at Earl's politicking, Robicheaux pursues killers through biker bars and unearths long-buried secrets in the Sonnier past.
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