James Lee Burke tells great stories about big characters. This is my first time reading of Sheriff Hackberry Holland, a Korean war vet and Texas lawman guarding a beautiful and blasted landscape on the border of Texas and Mexico. A kidnapped intelligence agent escapes from a brutal coyote who wanted to sell him to al Qaeda, and the Feds, a Russian arms dealer, and “Preacher” Jack Collins, a tommygun-toting force of fate converge on Hack, his deputy Pam Tibbs, and Ms. Ling, a Chinese woman the migrants call “La Magdalena,” who helped the agent cross. The story gripped me by the guts, and Mr. Burke’s lush yet quick-flowing prose kept me re-reading passages to savor them before I moved on. I’ve been an avid devoured of his heartfelt fiction since Black Cherry Blues, and after a hiatus, this book made me feel foolish that I’d ever stopped. Burke is as talented as he is prolific, and this is one of his best.