Friday, November 30, 2012
Review of Cypress Grove by James Sallis (2003, No Exit Press)
Cypress Grove is oddly captivating. It’s not a page-turner in the sense of a high powered thriller, but rather it hooks the reader in a quiet, understated way. Sallis’ storytelling kind of just drifts along regardless of dramatic moments, sketching out a portrait of an essentially good man whose life has been punctuated by terrible moments: being drafted to Vietnam, killing his partner, killing a prison inmate just prior to being released; all of them somehow beyond his control. Sallis’ is a noted poet and essayist as well as novelist and it shows in his writing, which has a lyrical cadence and some lovely turns of phrase. The story is told through two intersecting plotlines that alternate across chapters; one in the present; the other Turner’s back story. It’s an effective structure, providing a series of interesting counterpoints. The plot itself is relatively straightforward and Turner solves the case quite easily, but the puzzle is hardly the main focus of the story, rather it's Turner’s journey and the unfolding of his re-integration into life and law enforcement.