Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke is a departure from the author’s series of Dave Robicheaux novels, and it’s a welcome change that proves anew his mastery of plotting a compelling narrative as well as his affinity for strong female characters, and independent, pioneering men. After opening with a brief but profoundly resonant incident in the protagonist’s teenage years, the novel jumps to the chaos of World War II where a tank attack is described in such lush language as to almost make the destruction seem poetic in its horror. The first person narration puts the reader right in the foxhole with our hero. Unfolding from there is a singular life marked by a dogged determination to be his own man and to never compromise his principles. Whether it’s carrying an emaciated wreck of a woman from a deserted death camp, refusing to bow to the big companies as his small oil drilling platform begins to grow, or allowing police corruption to go by unchecked. His decisions to remain steadfast are sometimes what brings more calamity on himself, and Burke weaves a thoroughly entertaining tale that speaks to the grit and tenacity of the American spirit more than anything else.