cover image Eye of the Cricket

Eye of the Cricket

James Sallis. Walker & Company, $21.95 (196pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-3313-9

The fourth book in the Lew Griffin series (following Black Hornet, 1994) proves once again that Sallis is one of the least conventional and most interesting writers working in the mystery genre. Readers who prefer plots that move straight ahead and fast may resist the spell of his talent, but those willing to untangle a twisted time line and go with the peculiar flow of Sallis's unique prose will find many rewards. ""What I did here, in this extraordinary thing sitting beside me, is this: I quit trying,"" says Griffin, the New Orleans-based, 50-ish African American novelist, teacher and occasional detective about his new manuscript. ""Quit trying to finesse the failures and forfeitures of my life into fiction.... Quit trying to force patterns, however comforting and fetching and artistic these patterns might be, onto the catch-as-catch can of what I actually lived, the rigorous disorder of my days."" That's just one of many references to the act of writing that dot the book. One of the characters is named Sam Delany, a reference to the science fiction writer whose work Sallis has edited. Here, Griffin is taken up with searches for missing children: Shon, Delany's 15-year-old half-brother, who has dropped into a dangerous world of drugs; Danny Walsh, the son of Griffin's best friend, who also seems determined to destroy himself; and David, Griffin's own, long-gone son. Looking for a connection to David, Griffin sets out on a drunken quest through some of New Orleans's seediest sectors. There's not much mystery or plot resolution in this long section, but it leads up to an ending that manages to be dazzling, poignant and totally satisfying. (Nov.)