Mystery Books for Sale

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by James Sallis
Walker & Co., June 2000
196 pages
ISBN: 0802775810

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is not much of a mystery novel. It's a helluva book, but I didn't find too much crime-solving in it. There are puzzles, but they take a back seat to the story itself. Read it for that alone.

Lew Griffin, a novelist and college professor in New Orleans, has learned that his son is dead. As he absorbs this information, he is called by someone from the local hospital emergency room. An unidentified man lies in the hospital, carrying one of Griffin's books. It's inscribed to David, Griffin's son. 

The man insists that he is Lew Griffin, and that would be a fascinating tale but it gets left by the wayside in Griffin's life. He leaves the hospital, and Griffin, instead gets involved in other matters.

Sallis is a very talented writer; I read this book in part mindful that some friends whose taste I trust rave about Sallis. He is a writer with rich metaphor, wonderful vocabulary and heart. He's not exactly linear, which I had problems with: it's annoying to realize as you read a book that you just wanna know what happens next, but I found myself thinking that several times while reading Eye of the Cricket and feeling very unsophisticated.

The story of David Griffin does get resolved by the end of the book, as do the other stories - the crooks who are terrorizing Lew's neighborhood, what has happened to his friend's son. It's a thin story, but a rich book, if that makes sense. I often am frustrated when someone complains that mystery is not literature; this book is an example of the elegant writing one can find in crime fiction. I just wish there had been a little more meaty story, perhaps a bit more crime in the book. when it was over, I kept looking around for more.

Reviewed by Andi Shechter, June 2000

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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