I initially notched this up as an atmospheric but convention-bound noir, with enough familiar landmarks and the occasional clunky bit of generic dialogue to make it a pleasurable but unsurprising read. Wrong.
Sure, there's the much-touted allure of Sallis' prose, line by line lovely whether casually noting a thrum of cicadae, pecan shells thick on the ground, or the stunned look of a man who's just had a knife shoved up under to pin his bottom jaw to the top. None of it's gratuitous or showy; the book feels lean yet detailed. Even more, I loved the wit which made descriptions advance the narrative, condensing setting & character & tone -- e.g., "The bartender shrugged, shoulders rising momentarily from a tier of low-end vodkas and gins to one of call Scotches and subsidizing."
Even more, I loved how this book reminded me of--even compared favorably to, even occasionally surpassed--the great noirs of Goodis, Himes, Thompson, Willeford. Forget plot, which has a reasonable hook but is there mainly so Sallis can hang all those other trappings of noir. It gracefully trips up some expectations, plots itself around and about and then into a reasonably-satisfying conclusion. But the dance is the thing. Good book.