Review: Claire DeWitt and the City of The Dead by Sara Gran

Title: Claire De Witt and the City of the Dead

Author: Sara Gran

Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt June 2011 {ARC courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt /NetGalley}

Synopsis: Claire DeWitt is not your average private investigator. She has brilliant deductive skills and is an ace at discovering evidence. But Claire also uses her dreams, omens, and mind-expanding herbs to help her solve mysteries, and relies on Détection — the only book published by the late, great, and mysterious French detective Jacques Silette.  The tattooed, pot-smoking Claire has just arrived in post-Katrina New Orleans, the city she’s avoided since her mentor, Silette’s student Constance Darling, was murdered there. Claire is investigating the disappearance of Vic Willing, a prosecutor known for winning convictions in a homicide- plagued city. Has an angry criminal enacted revenge on Vic? Or did he use the storm as a means to disappear? Claire follows the clues, finding old friends and making new enemies — foremost among them Andray Fairview, a young gang member who just might hold the key to the mystery.

Status: Read from May 29 to 30, 2011 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Clair DeWitt is in crisis, still mourning the death of her mentor and recovering from a breakdown, she accepts the task of investigating the disappearance of Vic Willing during Hurricane Katrina. Guided by the philosophical tenants of Jacques Silette’s ‘Détection’, I Ching and narcotic induced insight, Claire seeks answers to her questions amongst the decaying streets and society of New Orleans.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is not just a mystery, but an unorthodox investigation into the murky debris of lives. The decay on the streets of New Orleans, 18 months post ‘The Storm’, is reflected in Gran’s characters who are mostly broken and drowning.
Claire’s investigative skills are legendary but she teeters on the edge of sanity. She is an unconventional protagonist, her spiritual connection to the book ‘Détection’ is unusual and her method of inquiry and analysis is eccentric. It’s not always easy to follow where Claire leads, she is a challenging character because of her idiosyncratic behaviour and unique viewpoint.
Claire’s investigation involves her with the disenfranchised youth on the streets of New Orleans. Andray and Terrell are two teenagers who survive by embracing the city’s underbelly of crime and lawlessness. Convinced Andray is an opportunist thief who murdered Willing, Claire’s attempts to prove her theory uncovers corruption, exploitation and despair.
It’s stark themes can be uncomfortable as they include gang violence, drug taking and sexual abuse. New Orleans residents may not take kindly to Gran’s view of their city. The brutal aftermath of Katrina does provide an atmospheric background to the story however and the city is almost a character in itself.
Gran requires the reader to surrender to the unhurried pace of the novel. She is in no real hurry to solve the mystery and as such the story takes detours into area’s of Claire’s background, her childhood and her relationship with her mentor. The narrative also quotes extensively from the fictional ‘Détection’ with it’s zen like wisdom and philosophy.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a slightly surreal, complex novel that is not just about the mystery of the missing Vic Willings but also explores life’s larger mysteries, those of self, purpose and fate. Beautifully crafted, this is a series that shows literary promise.

Available to Purchase

@ Amazon

@ BookDepository

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. blodeuedd
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 16:58:25

    I do like when a book is a bit surreal, but then I always did enjoy the strange



  2. Nicole
    Jun 18, 2011 @ 15:36:47

    I read Gran’s Come Closer several years ago. It was excellent though really unsettling/creepy. I might put this on my wish list! It sounds good



  3. Trackback: Review: Sara Gran – City of the Dead « crimepieces
  4. Trackback: It’s a Crime: Redemption; The Devil’s Eye and Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway | book'd out

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