BLUEBOTTLE by James Sallis


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Black detective Lew Griffin, who stars in this insect-named series (The Eye of the Cricket, 1997, etc.), begins his fifth adventure comatose. He regains consciousness, tries to recover details—they’re vague, blurry. He recalls drinking with a white woman who told him she was a reporter (a fabrication, as it turns out). He remembers stretching his arms to meet hers as they left the bar together, an embrace never completed. He also remembers the sound of shots and the impact of bullets. Beyond that, nothing’s certain. Who was she? Why did she lie to him? Did she set him up? Or did the would-be killer make a mistake, hit the wrong target? By the time Lew’s on his feet again, much of a year has passed. Clues are few and cold. Still, for him, as for any self-respecting shamus, the search for answers remains obligatory. And when not actually hitting the bottle, Lew hits the trail, with the Mafia and then a small army of white supremacists serving as way stations. The mob wants to recover stolen booty. The mini-militia wants to protect the US Constitution against blacks, Jews, and the FBI. Lew confronts both sets of no-goods with his customary panache, generating in the process his usual spate of literary references and allusions, enough to lead the league for the foreseeable future. The mysterious white woman seems connected to all this, but tenuously, and at the end . . . well, there is no end. There never is in a novel by Sallis, the poster boy for inconclusiveness. Some good writing, a few strong scenes, but a story woefully underplotted, determinedly nonlinear, and as tricky to catch hold of as, say, a frightened fly.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8027-3323-9
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Walker
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998


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