Review

Cripple Creek

by James Sallis



This sequel to the 2004 novel CYPRESS GROVE opens on John Turner's
life after his fall from grace as a Memphis policeman. He has also
moved on from playing counselor and has a spell in prison behind
him. With all that in his past, he has found Cripple Creek,
Tennessee, a small town far enough from Memphis to be comfortable,
yet close enough to make it an easy road trip in the event it
should become necessary. It does.


Turner has contented himself by fixing up an old cabin, with the
capable help of his lady friend Val. The two have a cozy
relationship going on, crowded a little bit by the appearance of a
pregnant Miss Emily. The interloping possum seemed to be looking
for a good birthing place, and the cabin apparently fit the bill.
When the little ones pop out, Turner's house feels delightfully
full. Just as Turner is settling happily into the country life, an
injury takes the local sheriff temporarily out of commission and
Turner is asked to stand in as deputy in his absence. In this
sleepy burg, it should have been a snap. "…one of our two
holding cells was occupied. This happened seldom enough to merit
surprise
." But things don't always happen the way they
should.


The suspect sitting in the holding cell was a speeding motorist who
let a misdemeanor traffic stop escalate into an arresting offense.
But the man doesn't languish in the cooler for long. Two of his mob
buddies from over Memphis way stage a dramatic jailbreak, leaving a
couple of casualties in the process. Well, Turner is not the type
of guy who benignly turns the other cheek. He heads out for the
city in pursuit, finds some persons of interest, and leaves a few
bloodied noses --- and other body parts --- in his wake. Naturally,
the thugs aren't too crazy about his methods and launch a
counterattack. Turner takes all of this in stride, sliding through
life with his matter-of-fact attitude, showing few outward spikes
of heavy emotion.


Meanwhile, as he's busy looking over his shoulder, he runs
full-face into his daughter. It seems that J.T. followed in her
dad's footsteps and grew up to become a cop too. Now, she falls
into step with him so that they can spend some time getting to know
each other all over again. Besides, an extra set of trained eyes
can't hurt.


Occasionally jumping back from the present, James Sallis fleshes
Turner out with thoughtful peeks into his damaged past, getting the
reader inside his head. "I was thinking...that all my life, with
my time in the jungle, my years on the street as a cop, prison
days, psychiatric work, even the place I grew up --- all my life
I'd lived out of step and sync with the larger world
." Then,
when we aren't looking at Turner's previous life, we're getting to
know Cripple Creek and the intriguing characters who live
there.


Enjoy this powerhouse of a mystery, and once you've read the last
word, go back and read the last 15 pages again. Savor and pay
attention --- and wait for the goose bumps to start. What a
wallop.


CRIPPLE CREEK is a spectacular departure from the massive horde of
formula crime fiction.


   














Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 28, 2010

Cripple Creek
by James Sallis

  • Publication Date: April 4, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • ISBN-10: 0802733824
  • ISBN-13: 9780802733825