cover image Bluebottle


James Sallis. Walker & Company, $22.95 (161pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-3323-8

The multi-talented Sallis writes not only mainstream literary fiction (Renderings) but also books about jazz, science fiction and French literature. Most notably, though, he's the author of the splendid Lew Griffin mystery series (Eye of the Cricket, 1997, etc.). Griffin is an African American writer, occasional PI and New Orleans college teacher. His fifth outing takes readers back to an earlier, more troubled time in his life, when he was drinking heavily. But, as in the earlier novels, time moves back and forth (sometimes abruptly and disconcertingly) as Griffin tries to make sense of his own personal history. The story opens with Griffin recovering from gunshot wounds. He is temporarily blind and can't remember any details about the night that he was shot. All he knows is that he and a white woman, Dana Esmay, were leaving a seedy bar when they were gunned down. As Griffin, aided by his old friend Don Walsh, looks for the truth about who shot him and why, he undertakes a parallel search for a missing writer who has been researching a group of white supremacists. In this haunting tale, Griffin's first-person narrative abounds with literary quotes and allusions as readers are transported on a tide of evocative language into an impressionistic story of the year that Griffin spent recovering from his wounds. Sallis's voice is unique among mystery writers, and this novel, like previous ones in the series, is unforgettable. (Jan.)