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Cypress Grove

(Turner #1)

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  811 ratings  ·  110 reviews
The small town where Turner has moved is one of America's lost places, halfway between Memphis and forever. That makes it a perfect hideaway: a place where a man can bury the past and escape the pain of human contact, where you are left alone unless you want company, where conversation only happens when there's something to say, where you can sit and watch an owl fly silen ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2004 by Walker Books (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  811 ratings  ·  110 reviews

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Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
And so the Turner sequence of novels by James Sallis comes to it's beginnings. Reading in reverse order makes this book feel like a close friend is finally confiding in you the how and the why of his downfall after many years of just not talking about it. It's somewhat lighter in tone than what would come after and it feels clear to me that Sallis didn't actually have a plan to make the series in to the melancholy dissection of memory and ageing and loss because whilst the structure is the same ...more
Jul 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a thin slice of vinegar pie. The story and pace is simple and slow, but underneath it all is a depth of character and a real sense of place.

Beautifully written, I get a real sense that Sallis is telling exactly the story he set out to write (that may sound like an obvious thing for a writer, but it's actually rare).

The book is both slow and quick. The even pacing going by quickly. And while I don't think it hits the level of the best of the Lew Griffin books, this
Nov 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
Here's how I arrived at this book: I read a very positive review in the last year or so of Sallis's "Salt River"; the review mentioned the book was the third in a series involving the same protagonist. So, I thought I would start with the first book in the series. Bad mistake.
Cypress Grove is a mannered tale of a retired policeman, living in a rural southern environment, who gets dragged into a local murder investigation. It cuts back and forth between the local investigation and the pol
Joyce Lagow
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing

First in the Turner trilogy.

Turner is an “ex” lot of things: ex-Vietnam soldier, ex-cop, ex-con, ex-therapist. Trying, as he says, to become “exempt” from what he sees as a meaningless life, he chooses to live in a cabin by a lake in a near a small, rural Tennessee town, near Memphis, pretty much like the place where he grew up. But violence has a way of following Turner, and when a bizarre murder occurs in the town, Sheriff Lonnie Bates asks Turner to help.

That’s the mat
Apr 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-2017, crime
Typical southern rural crime, just a little overwritten for its own good.

The plot alternates with flashbacks giving insight to what lead Turner here and now. The main crime plot is rather paper thin but the overall atmosphere and characters compensate. I particularly liked the introductory scene of sheriff Bates. Some lines are savorous.

What ticked me off were a good part of the dialogs. I can accept litterary inner monologues, assuming the narrator took its time to write
Denise Mullins
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
He’s been a cop, inmate, psychiatrist, almost an English professor, and currently a consultant on a murder case. With such a varied CV, it’s difficult to imagine how a reclusive character like Turner will apply all his life experience to successfully solve the brutally ritualistic murder of an emotionally disturbed young man who’d been lifting the mayor’s mail. Be forewarned: the clues may appear at a pace akin to molasses, and alternate chapters meander back and forth in first person narrative ...more
Phyllis Bismanovsky
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quick read, well developed characters, a very interesting detective with a prison record. Well written.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed it enough to read more in the series. Loved some of it and drifted off at other parts, but enough there to make me want to see what is to come.
Dec 18, 2015 rated it liked it
James Sallis can write some great prose and he can also write some strange prose, often in the same paragraph.

"He looked up as we came in. Wet brown eyes that reminded me of spaniels, ruddy face narrow and shallow like a shovel, thin hair. Something electric about him, though. Sparks and small connections jumping around in there unremarked."

Well I'm thinking, here's a dishevelled looking older guy with sad sympathetic eyes acting like a bundle of loose nerves ... but then, I can't r
Jun 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Surely you have oft heard the expression "I thought so&so was pretty good, but he's no. . . " Be it sports, stage, screen, or literature. That is how I felt after reading this book, by an author whose stuff I have read before and liked, but I just had this nagging feeling that this was, shall we say, second string. Mind you, it was still a good story and I liked it, and will read the others in the series, so that should tell you something, but the characters were not as sharp, nor the narrat ...more
Jamie Grefe
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
While the back and forth narrative style, showing Turner now and then, was, at times, hard to keep track of, but it's how Sallis wraps everything up that deserves much praise. Also, this is a deceptive book. I came into it expecting a crime/noir story, moody in the way that "Drive" was, but this is a different read. Sallis spends more time with the little details of Turner's world, gets us in there, shows us the inner struggle of the character as opposed to straight up crime and violence. Nicely ...more
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was his first Turner book. He has just moved to this small town, and the Sheriff comes calling wanting him to help w/ a murder in his town that he feels he is "in over his head" on this one. Turner reluctantly agrees to help. The book also has Turner going back in his thoughts to what brought him to where he is today, the war, his days as a cop, prison, and his years as a therapist. Should have read this one first, now I am ready for the 3rd Turner book.
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Southern noir. Liked it and going to read more books in this series. Sallis brings the heat and humidity, the liquor and the slow drawls to life. The essence of the Southern way of speaking is expressed not by changing the spelling of words as many authors tend to do these days, but by the way he uses punctuation, the rhythm of the sentences, and the texture of the words to tell the story. Craft rather than shortcut.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Cypress Grove and its sequels, Cripple Creek and Salt River, are a trilogy of lyrical crime novels by James Sallis. His prose is beautiful and his characters wonderful. The world of these novels is one of unremitting violence and good people get hurt or killed all the time, although those same people are able to find one another and some comfort in music and one another. Read all three but space them out a bit and read something optimistic after each Sallis novel.
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, crime
Having only read Drive by James Sallis before this wasn't anything like what I expected.

Where Drive is terse, direct and coldly violent; this is gentle, lazy, slow moving and highly discontinuous (there is a lot of flashback history - out of order).

That said; I liked Turner will certainly read the next in the series.

Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Really liked the style of writing here and the way the character's past history was laid out. Very curious to me though as a 'crime novel' as it seemed like it spent all of 20 pages on anything directly involved in the main murder. So as a crime novel its not all that detailed or full of drama but the style of writing, God. Just brilliant.
Jody Van Tassell
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was ok

Not a fan of the "flashbacks", especially in books. BlahBlahBlah
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Toward the end of “ Cypress Grove” the main character, Turner, is viewing an old black and white B movie on VHS as he tries to fathom the reason for a weird murder in the remote Southern village where he resides. The book’s author James Sallis describes the movie thus: “ Did these disparate, disjunctive scenes comprise a movie...? Were the abrupt cuts and sudden changes ( as though the film had constantly to reinvent itself) in fact part of some inchoate, aesthetic weave....? “Mr. Sallis might w ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written book - wow. Why has Sallis not been picked up for the American book award or something - he is as good as many of the winners I have read. Perhaps he is considered too much of a a genre writer - seeing as he does write crime novels - but he is SO much more. His prose is gorgeous - puts me in mind of Ron Rash or Denis Johnson - and I look forward to reading more of his work. Highly recommended.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Despite some graceful writing, Cypress Grove is just bad. It's short, but an aggravating narrative structure makes it feel long. It contains a murder that no one seems to care about. It builds a convincing but predictable atmosphere out of things like moonlight, bourbon, and owls. Again, despite the short length, the story takes bizarre, unedifying detours that kill its momentum.

In all, a cut-rate knockoff of gritty Southern Gothic writers like William Gay and Ron Rash.
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely superb writer. Understated prose seems to amble along but it seeps into you and suddenly you realise how much you are enjoying your reading experience. Forget crime fiction and the slights often aimed at it. Sallis is just a master novelist writing about life in a particular setting, creating dialogue that crackles and is so good. My sixth book with many more to come, thankfully. Join me, you will not be disappointed!
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More a study on the human condition and the justice system for those that are involved with it.
The story meanders along and it may be jarring for some how it jumps back to Turner's life as a cop to his retirement persona.
Overall it's an enjoyable read with some interesting snippets of life viewed from Sallis' imagining of rural America.
Patrick  O'Rourke
This book starts well but then begins to meander into, not one, but two, back stories, which would have been better served with a separate book. In the end the back stories overwhelm or rather expose the weakness of the main plot.
Craig Garrett
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I’d be lying if I said this book didn’t move me at times. Still, personal experience in corrections had some of this ring untrue, and the old white guy philosopher riffs grew tiresome. The mystery at the center of the present day timeline was interesting and original though.
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Contains traces of Ray Bradbury & James Ellroy.
Brian Tucker
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
There're all the bones here for a story I really wanted to read. Sadly, it didn't ring true.
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
After a life where he has been a student, a soldier, a psychologist, a detective and a convict, Turner has moved to a small town just outside Memphis. His plan, to live his life in peace and quiet and maybe take a little of that peace into himself. All seems to be going well until the Sheriff turns up with a bottle of whisky and a murder.

The murder is ritualistic. A drifter has been found bound and staked by some local kids. The police don't know who he is, why he was in town, or who
MisterLiberry Head
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
In a rustic, sparsely populated area somewhere not more than an hour's drive from Memphis, Tenn., a county sheriff named Lonnie Bates is overwhelmed by the strangeness of an unsolved murder. Turner, the narrator of CYPRESS GROVE, is a Vietnam vet and ex-cop who spent 11 years in prison and afterwards worked as a therapist in the city. "Then retired and came here. No reason things have got to get more complicated than that" (p4), he claims; but, of course, they do.

Sheriff Bates laconi
Liam Berry
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
On the day I knew I would finish this book I spent 45 minutes walking from my offices to the nearest bookstore in the rain so that I could pick up the second and third books in the trilogy which I think says everything I need to about the way this book sucked me in.

The action and the most recent events in the story seem to play second fiddle to a slow meditation on inertia, the weight of memory and the perceived need for motion to define existance that run throughout the novel. The p
Wayland Smith
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read a review of this book somewhere that got me mildly curious about it. I eventually got it out of the local library, and I'm very glad that I did. This is a damn good, well written book.

The easy way to try and grab someone's attention with a crime thriller is to do either non-stop action or all kinds of gore and blood. Sallis does neither. He uses powerful writing and imagery to convey exactly what he wants to as he goes.

Turner has lost a lot in his life. He's a former cop, for
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James Sallis (born 21 December 1944 in Helena, Arkansas) is an American crime writer, poet and musician, best known for his series of novels featuring the character Lew Griffin and set in New Orleans, and for his 2005 novel Drive, which was adapted into a 2011 film of the same name.

Other books in the series

Turner (3 books)
  • Cripple Creek (Turner, #2)
  • Salt River (Turner, #3)