Noah Robischon
June 13, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Cypress Grove

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
James Sallis
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B

The setup sounds familiar: An ex-cop trying to forget his past is lured back into the game by a small-town sheriff and a bottle of Wild Turkey. But Sallis, a journeyman noir novelist, pulls off the story with such panache that few will notice. His weapons of distraction include a ritualistic murder tied to a cult of B-horror-movie fans (allowing Sallis to plug gore master Herschell Gordon Lewis, director of 1963’s Blood Feast) and a countrified romance involving a complicated woman that would make a peach of a role for, say, Susan Sarandon. Despite all those arresting elements, however, Sallis never manages to nab more than a fast and stylish potboiler.

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