Thursday, August 8, 2013

Others of my Kind by James Sallis A Shadow Review

Let me start out by saying that I think James Sallis is one of Americas finest writers.  In his last few efforts he has achieved both popular success with the book and film, "Drive" and critical success with the "Turner Trilogy" and last years "Driven" and "The Killer is Dying".  His new novel, which will be published in early September, is a stunning work of art.  It is short, powerful and deeply affecting.  I found it both hard to read, horrifying and beautiful all at the same time.  The book takes place in the near future and mirrors the political problems of our own present day.  Jenny Rowan, who tells us her story, is a survivor of a terrible kidnapping and a ruined childhood.  She has survived and now works at a TV station where she constructs both a life and news stories from film fragments as an editor. Through her eyes and the genius of Mr. Sallis we are shown a deeply humanitarian path towards a resurrection of her life and a glimpse of what America can be.  The book is  both a crime story, a political precis and a magnificently realized journey to the heart of what we can become as a people if we want to.
While the book is lean in pages, it has a power that is perfect in its execution.  The language is both simple and yet rich in its imagery and metaphor.  With each new book James Sallis reaches ever higher into the pantheon of pure writing.  The beauty and empathy that he radiates in his prose is breathtaking.  His melding of humans and nature allow the reader to feel a wholeness with the world we live in that is rarely found in modern literature.  I cannot praise this gem of a novel enough and hope that all who read this review avail themselves of a chance to experience something unique.
Jim Sallis will be at the Poisoned Pen, along with his band, Three Legged Dog, on September 13th.  Come and meet one of the great men of American letters.  He can also, "play that guitar just like ringin' a bell."

reviewed by: Steve Shadow Schwartz

Monday, August 5, 2013

“Her Last Breath,” by Linda Castillo

“Her Last Breath,” by Linda Castillo
Reviewed by Lawrence Katz

Although I have not yet read Linda Castillo’s past mysteries set in the Amish communities of  Pennsylvania, the newest version, “Her Last Breath,” has inspired me to do so. The main character in this book, County Police Chief Kate Burkholder, was once Amish herself, but she left the fold and now, responsible for public safety in a county that includes many Amish families, she is often called upon to interface with members of her former religious group when crime disrupts their community. The latest turmoil follows the death of a prominent Amish father and his child when their carriage is struck by a high-speed hit-and-run driver on the highway near their farm. The nature of the crash, and the lack of skid marks, indicates that this was no accident. Determing who-dunnit and why takes Kate back to her unpleasant roots, a journey made all the more painful because of her own dark secrets, which she would rather leave buried, literally. The author manages to combine sensitivity to the Amish culture with real-world cruelty and emotional pain. Kate’s romantic relationship with another police officer, her personal history with the wife of the deceased carriage driver, and the potential unraveling of her own youthful misconduct, add depth to the story. The writing is crisp, fast-paced, and engrossing. Do not fear that the religious angle dilutes or subdues the cop-story language you would expect; it does not. The Amish talk and act like Amish, but the cops talk and act like cops. This book is a “fast read,” both because of the speed of the narrative and the reader’s desire to keep fitting the puzzle pieces together. Highly recommended by this avid reader of mysteries.

Linda Castillo. Photo Credit: Pam Lary