Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Sarah Jane

Sarah Jane by James Sallis
Soho Press: 10/1/19
eBook review copy; 216 pages
ISBN-13: 9781641290807

Sarah Jane by James Sallis is a highly recommended character study set in a crime novel.

Sarah Jane Pullman is currently a cop, but she has a complicated past. From a rocky childhood that eventually led to a court-ordered Army stint where she still has the scars from her combat experience in the Gulf War. She got back and spent years drifting around, taking on jobs as a cook in various places. She has had several relationships and plenty of heart-break and bad times, including her relationship with a violent cop. Life eventually led her the small southwestern town of Farr where she accepted a job with the police department. Sheriff Cal Phillips recognized she was a vet and taught her what he knew. When Cal disappears, Sarah becomes the acting sheriff, and begins investigating his disappearance.

This is an exquisitely written character study of a complicated woman making a life out of the chaos she's been through. The opening of this this is a bit hard to become engaged with at the beginning when Sarah is sharing memories and anecdotes from her life, before we really have a context in which to place the information. Things do fall into place, eventually, at about a third of the way through this short novel, but in my opinion it did  take away from the narrative.

Where the narrative is good, though, it is excellent. As I said, the prose is exquisite, spare and brief, but with nary a wasted word. It is worth it to read through to the end as this is an empathetic, insightful, thoughtful observation on the human condition, as well as a mystery.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Soho Press/Penguin Random House.

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