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Cypress Grove


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About the Author

A writer of varied talents, James Sallis is a published poet, critic, translator, and novelist. He has been praised as "a fine talent, introspective, sardonic, a master of quick characterization and narrative compression" (Buffalo News) and as "a rare find...a fine prose stylist with an interest in moral struggle and a gift for the lacerating evocation of loss" (Newsday).


Turner, a homicide cop from Memphis, has retired to a cabin outside a small town in the South, but crime comes knocking in this tightly written, low-key thriller. The rural sheriff, Lonnie Bates, introduces himself over a bottle of Wild Turkey and asks for assistance in a murder case that clearly is out of his league. A drifter has been found wired up on latticework, arms ritualistically crossed above his head, a long stake driven through his heart. As he joins in the investigation, Turner meets and likes more and more of the locals, remembering how he came to this place after an on-job shooting and follow-up stint in prison. Alternating chapters build his backstory, with brilliant, disturbing vignettes of police work and scenes of surviving as an ex-cop behind bars that stand with the best in the genre. The prose, unlike other more poetic writing from the versatile Sallis, is easily accessible: "We came in from the north, onto deserted streets. Pop. 1280, a sign said. Passed Jay's Dinner with its scatter of cars and trucks outside, drugstore and hardware store gone dark, A&P, Dollar Store, Baptist church, Gulf station." With his highly regarded six-novel series about New Orleans detective Lew Griffin (The Long-Legged Fly, etc.) behind him, Sallis seems completely comfortable in this solid, lyrical and very human-scale mystery. Fans who appreciate his more quirky touches won't be disappointed, as he brings in an unexpected cult cinema angle. This one may well draw a larger readership to his work. (June 19) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Turner is a disillusioned former police officer, ex-convict, and retired psychologist who has sought to escape the realities of modern life in rural Tennessee. When local sheriff Lonnie Bates asks him to break his solitude and assist in a murder case, Turner agrees reluctantly, persuaded by his admiration for Bates and a shared bottle of Wild Turkey. The victim is a drifter whose death might have been easily dismissed had it not had ritualistic overtones and had he not been carrying mail addressed to the town's mayor. The investigation moves slowly, and many of the breaks result from chance rather than good investigative techniques, but lulls in the case allow Turner to probe his former life through flashbacks and reconcile his past with the present. Sallis is a seasoned mystery novelist (Ghost of a Flea) and biographer (Chester Himes: A Life) whose introspective style here will appeal to the soft-boiled mystery aficionado.-Thomas L. Kilpatrick, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"An outstanding and unpredictable literary thriller."

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