From Publishers Weekly
Poet and short story writer Sallis creates a lyrical, unconventional suspense novel that reads like variations on a blues riff. In four sections, set in 1964, 1970, 1984 and 1990, black New Orleans detective Lew Griffin moves from his feisty mid-20s to successful middle age as a writer. He carries with him the requisite burdens of the hardboiled PI--memories of his days as an Army MP, a son and an ex-wife, excessive reliance on alcohol and tobacco--and he also quotes, poetry, literature and philosophy. Although some characters appear throughout, each section of the novel is virtually self-sufficient, with Griffin trying to find a series of missing persons. He wins some and loses some: he finds a black female activist trying to pass as white; he fails to save a teenage runaway from drugs and porn films. The richest (and longest) section traces how Griffin escapes loneliness and comes to understand himself through his relationship with the British nurse he meets at a detox center; he realizes he has filled himself with bourbon and the blues for too long. In the end, he recognizes the improvisational nature of his life, "moving closer and closer to the truth" in the conclusion to this haunting debut novel.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Black detective Lew Griffin skips his father's final illness (New Orleans, 1964) when he's hired to find a missing person--well-known black leader Corene Davis. Successfully finding Davis, he repeats the trick three times--searching for runaway teenager Cordelia Crayson in 1970, his friend Jimmy Smith's kid sister Cherie in 1984, and finally his own long-unseen son David in 1990. The searches are understated, variously successful, and seasoned with increasingly elegiac glimpses of Lew's erratic home life (his unlikely romance with British nurse Vicky, his repeated return to his obliging friend LaVerne); and readers waiting for first-novelist Sallis (the story collection A Few Last Words, 1970) to drop the connections among them will wait in vain. But an unexpectedly poignant sketch of the detective emerges through the apparent holes in the plot. Not so much a detective story as a story about a detective, then- -but one that exploits the conventions of the genre with quietly distinctive power. Likely target audience: people who think James Lee Burke's moody Dave Robicheaux novels are overplotted. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.