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Salt River    by James Sallis order for
Salt River
by James Sallis
Order:  USA  Can
Walker, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

The narrator of the highly recommended Salt River, the ironically optimistic John Turner - an otherwise weary and saddened man with a complicated past that continues to haunt just about every moment of his present-day existence - takes one day at a time in his routine as deputy sheriff of a small Tennessee community where eccentric characters seem to dominate the landscape.

If asked to tell you about himself, Turner might reluctantly point out that he had at one time been 'a psychologist of sorts,' and he could tell you that he had been a war-veteran and a big-city 'cop who had seen some of the worst mankind had to offer.' He might also tell you during one of his more candid moods that he was 'an ex-con who had been privy to society's best, gnarled efforts at greatheartedness and manipulation.'

This complex narrator is about to become embroiled in a singular series of curiously connected events, and he admits that his 'to-do list just went on getting longer.' First, he needs to go see someone about a barking dog (because the neighbors are complaining). Then, he needs to interview the matronly owner of a Buick that the sheriff's long-lost son has just crashed into City Hall. And to top everything off, Turner's good friend Eldon Brown has just confessed: 'I think I killed someone.'

Third in a series by James Sallis featuring the endlessly fascinating John Turner - preceded by Cypress Grove and Cripple Creek - the powerful and atmospheric short novel Salt River excels as a poignant character study and darkly riveting mystery. Paradoxically though elegantly combining the raw grit of noir fiction and the lyrical intensity of Southern gothic, Salt River further confirms the author's prestigious reputation as exemplary poet, translator, novelist, and recipient of the Boucheron Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

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