Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran

Claire DeWitt is a private investigator who goes by the book.  Specifically, she goes by the book Detection by the great French detective, Jacques Silette.  Silette is a presence from the first chapter, where Claire tosses out the following quote:   “Each detective must take her clues and solve her mysteries for herself.  No one can solve your mystery for you; a book cannot tell you the way.”

Claire reminds me of another intrepid female detective, Flavia de Luce.  Granted, she’s a Flavia with tattoos, a tendency to smoke chemicals rather than experiment with them, and an obsession with a dead French detective instead of a dead British chemist.  But they share the same drive to pursue the truth no matter what the cost to themselves.  And they are both haunted by the loss of someone important from their childhood.

It’s 2007 and Claire has been hired by his nephew to find out what happened to Vic Willing, a New Orleans prosecutor who hasn’t been seen since Hurricane Katrina.   As Claire drives around the surreal landscape that is post-Katrina New Orleans she is struck and saddened by its shattered beauty.  And she realizes, along with several other characters, that New Orleans “knows how to tell a beautiful story.  It truly does.  But if you’re looking for a happy ending, you better be lookin’ somewhere else”.

I liked the atmosphere of this story and its refusal to make people all bad or all good.  I liked Claire, who tries to hide her big heart under a thin veneer of wisecracks.  I found the New Orleans Sara Gran conjures up vivid and original.  And I found myself pondering the words of Jacques Silette.  Silette’s first rule of solving mysteries is “most people don’t want their mysteries solved.  Including us.”  I’m still thinking about that.

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One Response to “Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran”

  1. artreviewed Says:

    Im adding this book to my summer reading list! Sounds really good! Always on the look out for a good read! Thanks! 🙂

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