No Exit Press, £7.99 stg

The fifth and final book in the Lew Griffin series, 'Ghost of a Flea' is a refreshing take on the traditional crime novel.

Sallis substitutes the cliché of a low life, seedy detective with Lew Griffin, a well-educated literary buff, who can quote anything from William Blake to James Joyce at will.

Having tried his hand at being a detective, a teacher and a writer Lew Griffin's life is now directionless. He has writer's block, his relationship is in tatters and his son is missing. On top of that his best friend gets shot and injured in a botched robbery, just weeks before his retirement from the New Orleans Police Department. Lew's goddaughter is receiving threatening letters, and flocks of pigeons are dying in the local park.

Are these isolated incidents or are they linked? Either way Griffin takes on the task of finding out.

Largely dialogue-based, 'Ghost of a Flea' is told as a stream of consciousness - which sometimes makes the storyline difficult to follow. As Griffin is obviously familiar with the main players, characters from his past are not explained, which, in parts, makes reading the book a bit like battling with a 1,000 piece jig-saw puzzle.

It may be that the characters have been developed through the first four novels, but as a stand-alone 'Ghost of a Flea' doesn't work. It is worth reading for the interesting stylistic difference alone however.

Joanne Ahern