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Cypress Grove (John Turner Series) Hardcover – April 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

His Lew Griffin series behind him, Sallis turns to a new hero. On the run from his past, which includes stints as cop, convict, and psychotherapist, Turner has settled in the deep country outside Cypress Grove, Tennessee, looking only for solitude. Then the local sheriff shows up bearing a bottle of Wild Turkey and a plea for help: murder has come to Cypress Grove, and the sheriff needs the expertise of a mean-street-hardened investigator. Turner allows himself to be drawn into the case--a bizarre ritual killing--and follows the trail to a cult filmmaker whose unreleased final film includes a death scene that appears to have been the killer's inspiration. Jumping between the main story and a series of flashbacks detailing Turner's tortured past, Sallis combines an intensely introspective hero with a detail-rich plot (the foray into B-films is especially fascinating). Sallis' prose tends to walk a thin line between lyrical and mannered, sometimes falling one way, sometimes another, but this time he remains in balance throughout. A strong series debut from one of the genre's most original voices. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: John Turner Series
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; First Edition edition (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802733808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802733801
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,830,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I did not finish this book.
S. J. Smith
Likewise, the characters are well developed and believable.
The writing jumped between characters and time too much.
nvr cook

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
James Sallis tells stories. Wonderful stories. Rich in character, complex in plot and ultimately satisfying.

In "Cypress Groves," we first meet Turner, a man who quickly reveals in his own thoughts his past: unwilling, but competent soldier; a Memphis cop who helped until a fateful day; then a convict; next a therapist and finally a man sitting on the porch of his cabin in the rural nowhere.

Lonnie Bates pulls up one day in his jeep bearing a bottle of Wild Turkey. Sallis's mastery of storytelling and dialog is wonderfully demonstrated as Bates moves slowly to the real business at hand: enlisting Turner's in solving a local homicide.

The characters are meticulously drawn. Flashbacks illuminate Turner's life, a device many authors mangle, but not Sallis. We meet Don Lee, deputy to Sheriff Bates. Val Bjorn, a lawyer for the state. The Mayor. The local, curmudgeonly doctor who doubles as coroner. Sallis beings this rustic locale to life with the small wrongs villagers bring to the sheriff's attention. This is not pulse-pounding adventure: you feel the slow pace of a small town where not much happens other than people being born, living out their lives and than dying. In this case, the victim, not a local, unknown meets a particularly gruesome untimely end.

Bit by bit, Turner uncovers the facts. At heart a mystery, Sallis turns it into a brilliant tapestry of lives lived and unlived.

The plot never misses a beat. No need for leaps of faith with Sallis: every tiny bit falls into place in due time, including a surprising ending that had its beginnings decades earlier and thousands of miles away.

Save this one for a quiet night or two of reading, preferably with the lights turned down low and maybe some good music in the background. Sallis's storytelling is something to be savored slowly, like a fine wine.

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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Shana Banana on May 31, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First, you need to read all three of the Turner books. They are compelling, deep, true but sad and ultimately too depressing to get more than three stars. I wish one of the books had a more upbeat ending. I don't have to have happy endings in all of my books but I don't want to cry over all of them either.

I am glad I read the three Turner books but I'll never reread them either.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Grateful Gramma on February 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
Ex-cop, ex-con, ex-therapist Turner thinks he's hidden himself away in an isolated cabin in a rural area of Tennessee. He appears to have succeeded, until Lonnie Bates, the local sheriff, arrives on his doorstep.

Now you would suppose that the sheriff wants to check up on Turner, maybe to warn him to walk the straight and narrow. But, no, the sheriff comes to ask his help in solving an unusual and ritualistic murder.

Back and forth we go through the pieces of Turner's life, building a picture of his past, while he puts together the pieces of the crime. In the process, we watch as he becomes re-engaged with life and other people.

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
James Sallis unfolds Cypress Grove like reverse origami, showing the reader only one tantalizing piece at a time. In this beautifully-written book, two mysteries are gradually described: the present-time, ostensible mystery (a ritualistic murder of a homeless man in a small town) and the mystery of the detective himself, Turner, and how he came to be where and who he is. The former we simply watch in fascination, as we might a complex clockwork. The latter we are drawn inexorably into. We spiral down with Turner through the unavoidable tragedies of his life, only to emerge somewhat unexpectedly into the hopeful light of the ending. This is possibly Sallis' most openly optimistic book, but it loses none of his trademark style, seamlessly blending the hard-boiled with the sublime.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By D. Berlin on July 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Sometimes an author makes things more meaningful by what he leaves unwritten than what he writes. This is not James Sallis' style in this book, and is why I do not recommend it. His main character, Turner, waxes philosophical about the gray areas of life, and comes off annoying rather than sympathetic or interesting. The plot holds great promise, but in the end also comes across as weak and as unsatisfying as a bag of Cheetohs on an empty stomach. I was disappointed. If you like detective fiction or are an afficionado of noir, I would suggest looking elsewhere.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on July 15, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Turner is an uncommon hero: former Memphis cop, former psychotherapist, ex-convict, having spent eleven years behind bars for shooting his partner. And James Sallis is an uncommon writer: moody, quirky, and lyrical, the perfect ingredients for this tale of murder and mystery in back water Tennessee.

Turner is living out what's left of his life out in the remote cypress bayous when local Sheriff Lonnie Bates comes calling with a bottle of Wild Turkey and a problem. The body of a young man has been found, strung up behind a local barn, ritualistically murdered, spread eagled with a wooden stake through his heart - a bit more to handle than Bates' usual fare of drunken homeboys and treed cats. Turner agrees to use his big city detective street smarts to help out, and is soon hip deep in country eccentrics and, surprisingly, cult movies with Byzantine subplots.

Those looking for a deep police procedural will be disappointed: the murder is only convenient background for Sallis to strut his literary acumen while rendering a gritty and poignant portrait of love, life, and relationships in the rural south. Hard hitting when not drifting lazily down a humid country path, Sallis understands pace and the powerful beauty of carefully chosen words. "Cypress Grove" is another fine example of one of American fiction's best writers at the top of his game. Try a detour down a dirt road off the more heavily traveled pedestrain mainstream brand of pop mysteries and take this short but dangerous walk with James Sallis.
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