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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead [Kindle Edition]

Sara Gran
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Delicious and addictive.”—Salon.com

“The book is beautifully written in a tight, quirky style that distinguishes Gran as one of the more original writers working today.”—Bruce DeSilva, Associated Press

“One of the genre’s most original characters in years, reads . . . as if David Lynch directed a Raymond Chandler novel.”—CNN

Claire DeWitt believes she is the world’s greatest PI, even if few agree with her. A one-time teen detective in Brooklyn, she is a follower of the esoteric French detective Jacques Silette, whose mysterious handbook Détection inspired Claire’s unusual practices.

Claire also has deep roots in New Orleans, where she was mentored by Silette’s student the brilliant Constance Darling—until Darling was murdered. When a respected DA goes missing she returns to the hurricane-ravaged city to find out why.Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a knockout start to a bracingly original new series.

“The hard-living, wisecracking titular detective bounces around post-Katrina New Orleans trying to track down a missing prosecutor in this auspicious debut of a new mystery series—and the Big Easy is every bit her equal in sass and flavor.”—Elle

“What would you get if that punkish dragon girl Lisbeth Salander met up with Jim Sallis’s Lew Griffin walking the back streets of New Orleans? Or Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone transformed herself into a tattooed magnolia driving a 4x4? Clare DeWitt, that’s what you’d get . . . DeWitt’s mesmerizing character and memorable voice take your breath away.”—New Orleans Times-Picayune

“Just when I begin to despair that the PI novel has worn out its welcome, a writer with a fresh take reminds me why I fell in love with the genre. Sara Gran has long specialized in shaking up and revitalizing other corners of the genre world, so it’s no surprise that she performs this same magic in Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead.”—Laura Lippman


Editorial Reviews

Review

"Just when I begin to despair that the PI novel has worn out its welcome, a writer with a fresh take reminds me why I fell in love with the genre. Sara Gran has long specialized in shaking up and revitalizing other corners of the genre world, so it’s no surprise that she performs this same magic in CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD. And while I confess to having very little objectivity about New Orleans and no credentials to judge its literary portrayal, this is a valuable addition to the (way too small) body of post-storm novels."--Laura Lippman

"Terrific. I love this book! Absolutely love it. This is the first fresh literary voice I've heard in years. Sara Gran recombines all the elements of good, solid story-telling and lifts something original from a well-loved form."--Sue Grafton

"I just burned through Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, and it's the first truly fantastic book I've read this year. Gran's evocation of the exposed wounds of New Orleans - before and after the storm - is a master-class in descriptive and emotive writing, and Claire is one of the most exciting new characters in years; a Raymond Chandler heroine with just enough of an off-beat vibe to tilt the whole thing enticingly off-kilter. Everything here - from the smallest touches to the grander mythology setting the tone of the series - just sings."--Drew Williams, Little Professor Book Center

"Not your mother's girl detective, Claire DeWitt is a cool blend of Nancy Drew and Sid Vicious.  With Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Sara Gran has pulled the traditional female sleuth into the twenty-first century with a novel that's smart and hip, dark and funny.  I can't wait for the next one." - Alafair Burke, author of LONG GONE

"Gran (Dope, 2006, etc.) provides...a comically self-important detective and a searing portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans."--Kirkus Reviews

"As brash and bold as Sherlock Holmes himself, Claire DeWitt arrives in still-chaotic New Orleans 18 months after Katrina. She's been hired to investigate the disappearance of Vic Willing, a local prosecutor, who's not been heard from since the hurricane. Claire surprises the local gangtsa set with her unique bravado. One of them, Andray, is compelled to help her tap into the darkness of Katrina's aftermath. From there, Claire finds her answers. Mentored and deeply inspired by a famous French detective, the I Ching, and profoundly illuminating dreams, a complex Claire leads us into her own nightmares as well. VERDICT This is not to be missed-Claire is a moody, hip, and meticulous investigator. Gran (Dope; Come Closer) builds an addictive sense of anticipation with a fantastical frame. Alternately gritty and dreamy, this would appeal to those who liked Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist and readers of Charlie Huston (e.g., The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death). Highly recommended." --Library Journal STARRED

"Captivating"--Publishers Weekly, STARRED

"If there isn’t yet a subgenre called funky noir, this wacky PI novel could be a fragrant first...lots of fun."--Booklist

PRAISE FROM BOOKSELLERS (PRE-PUB TOUR)

"Thanks again for such a wonderful experience last week. I love how HMH and Algonquin are bringing writers to the booksellers ahead of publication date because it makes such a difference having that personal knowledge of the author. And when the authors are *awesome* like Sara is, it makes their books stand out more in my mind, and thus makes me more likely to try to handsell their books. Sure, we all try to sell the books we like and we think a customer will like, but when there's a personal connection with the author, it feels more like we're introducing new readers to not just a book, but a friend."--Emily Crowe, Odyssey Book Shop

"Sara Gran is awesome. Don’t let her small, bespectacled frame deceive you; she’s a firecracker with fascinating stories to tell, and she has an obvious, passionate love of her craft. I could have talked to her for hours. And I love her book so far; it’s terrifically different from so many other mysteries I’ve read. And with regard to New Orleans: she really knows her stuff. I DO very much like the pre-publicity dinners, and not just because of the free booze.  It encourages me to read books I might not ordinarily pick up (*Sara’s being an exception, as it’s right up my alley), and talking at length with the author about why they wrote the book, their background, etc. all helps me to sell their book." --Hilary Emerson Lay, Spirit of '76 Bookstore "We had a blast with you, Carla and Sara. I think these sorts of pre-pub events are very worth it. I do believe they help generate enthusiasm for a book and an author which helps generate sales. Of course, Sara is an author that it's easy to be enthusiastic about. She's genuine, smart, fun and quick to forge connections. That is, we like her very much. Being a former bookseller, she's kin and you can feel that. In a good way. Like when you meet a cousin you barely know but like instantly. She's our cousin who has made good and we're sorry we don't get to see her more because she lives on the wrong side of the country."--Stan Hynds, Northshire Bookstore  "The novel, Gran's fourth, is difficult to categorize, offering a strangely appealing mix of the mystical and the hard-boiled. The book is beautifully written in a tight, quirky style that distinguishes Gran as one of the more original writers working today."--Bruce DeSilva, Associated Press

Review

“Terrific. I love this book! Absolutely love it. This is the first fresh literary voice I've heard in years. Sara Gran recombines all the elements of good, solid story-telling and lifts something original from a well-loved form.”
      —Sue Grafton (Sue Grafton)

Product Details

  • File Size: 643 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0571259189
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 11, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004X7QMB2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,828 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Believe nothing. Question everything." April 29, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Claire DeWitt and the City of The Dead by Sara Gran tells the story of private detective Claire DeWitt's investigation of the death of ADA Vic Willing in post-Katrina New Orleans. Willing's nephew Leon hires Claire ("...people said you were the best.") when his uncle disappears without a trace after the storm. Leon's own search has yielded little, so he asks Claire to take on the case even though she warns him he may not like what she finds.

Claire, originally from Brooklyn, hasn't been back to New Orleans since the death of her mentor Constance Darling several years ago. Although she lacks Constance's wide net of contacts in the city, Claire is both well-trained and a natural detective, relying on her instincts, dreams, omens, the I-Ching, herbal substances, and a book called Detection by a famous and mysterious French detective called Jacques Silette, which is frequently referred to in the novel (the quotes from and references to Silette are one of the things I especially enjoyed about the book). Claire meets up with old acquaintances and makes new ones during her investigation, which indeed reveals more about Leon's uncle than he cares to know. Claire sticks with the frustrating case even when her life is in danger.

The novel is full of vivid characters and presents a depressing yet fascinating portrait of after-the-storm New Orleans. Even the minor characters, such as a homeless woman in a park, are memorable. Gran has a knack for description both of people and places. Her story moves along at a good pace. I liked both the procedural details and the less conventional methods Claire employs to figure out what happened to Vic. Claire is both brilliant and self-destructive; you marvel at her and want to slap her at the same time.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
What happened to Vic Willing of New Orleans in the days after Katrina? His nephew, Leon, has fallen heir to Vic's fortune and the rich contents of the apartment on Bourbon Street that never got flooded. He last saw his uncle months before the storm and called him with an offer to help evacuate. Now he's willing to spend some of the money just to know what happened to his uncle, a man he barely knew.

A homeless man saw Vic alive in the days after Katrina. It's known he survived the storm. So what happened? Claire DeWitt is called in on the case and isn't that happy about it. After all there are missing people in her life, too.

Since Vic was the one Assistant District Attorney in New Orleans who wasn't corrupt, the easiest solution to the mystery is that someone took the opportunity to get revenge.

But Claire guided by her own instincts and by an obscure how-to manual on detection rejects the easy solutions.

This novel is both a mystery and a rumination on the mysteries of life--it can drive a reader crazy to watch Claire, boozed up and stoned most of the time, stumble through the ruined wards and lawless streets in apparently aimless fashion, making mistakes, jumping to conclusions and running smack into blind alleys. Every setback is an excuse for quoting from Claire's Bible, the 1959 edition of Jacques Silette's Detection. This book is full of mystic observations on the life of the detective that after a time grates on the reader as pretentious claptrap.

Claire herself is like a Nancy Drew, twenty years older and stoned...or a female Sherlock Holmes, making deductions that are absolutely brilliant...or off-base. The setting of New Orleans, storm-ravaged and irrevocably changed by the reconstruction is breathtaking and heartbreaking.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Katrina and the Kitchen Sink June 4, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Claire DeWitt is The World's Greatest Private Eye. How do I know? Because she and Sara Gran tell me so. Unfortunately, nothing else DeWitt does or that Gran has written about her in this muddled, meandering mystery supports such a grandiose claim. As a character, DeWitt certainly has potential: she's a tough, tattooed PI who uses her drug-induced dreams to lead her towards clarity and insight where her cases are concerned. But is she more than a jumble of characteristics and neuroses? Is she an actual person I care about or would want to follow through a new mystery series? Not at the moment. She's far too self-involved and smug. Being a private eye "will bleed you dry," she tells us at the end of her tale. "No one ever says, Hey, maybe the PI needs a break. Hey let's buy the PI a drink. No thank-you cards, no flowers, no singing telegrams, and half the time you don't even get paid." Can you imagine Kinsey Milhone or Tess Monaghan sharing (or even feeling) such self-pity? At least if they did it would be with some humor; perhaps a wink to say "Okay, just kidding." Because DeWitt's done nothing prior to engender our respect or good will, in her mouth it comes across as dead serious whining.

What author Sara Gran does well is paint a picture of the blighted nightmare that post-Katrina New Orleans has become. We get a chillingly detailed vision of the hopelessness, indifference and rage with which the underclass wakes up every day. Atmospherically, the book is on very solid ground.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars i liked it
good story decent pace
Published 3 hours ago by coathanger
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I like Claire DeWitt. I like her imperfection. I love the description and feel of New Orleans.
Published 19 days ago by signe d porter
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I had a hard time getting into this book.
Published 25 days ago by Sandy K
4.0 out of 5 stars I wasn't too crazy about the reason behind the murder - it would have...
Interesting read - takes a while to get into the characters and what's really going on. I wasn't too crazy about the reason behind the murder - it would have been a fine book with... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Santa's Elf
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I'm slowly falling in love with Claire DeWitt. Can't wait for the next book to come out.
Published 1 month ago by youcantfindme
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Just could not get into it!
Published 1 month ago by Bob Lange
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine writing.
This was my first book by this author. The story was engaging, the characters well developed and interesting. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Michael Stearney
5.0 out of 5 stars 21st century noir
The first in a great series of modern noir. Claire DeWitt is a 21st century, female version of the great Private Eyes that have gone before. Think Veronica Mars with more issues! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Christopher Davis
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun - and thoughtful
This was a surprise, I was not familiar with the author or her character. I found this book very good, and descriptions of New Orleans after Katrina and the aftereffects seemed... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Pixie
2.0 out of 5 stars I thoroughly enjoy a wide variety of writing styles and plot devices
I have struggled my way through about 65% of this book and I am going to call it quits. I thoroughly enjoy a wide variety of writing styles and plot devices, but this book just... Read more
Published 2 months ago by P. Wilson
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More About the Author

Sara Gran is the author of Saturn's Return to New York (2001), Come Closer (2003), Dope (2006), and the forthcoming Claire DeWitt & The City of the Dead (2011), the first in a series of novels featuring private eye Claire DeWitt. Her work has been published in over a dozen countries and as many languages. Her books have been optioned for film by Miramax, Dimension, and Paramount. Born in Brooklyn in 1971, Ms. Gran lived in New York City until 2004. Since then she has traveled widely and lived throughout the US including Miami and New Orleans. She now resides in the state of California. Before making a living as a writer, Ms. Gran had many jobs, primarily with books, working at Manhattan bookstores like Shakespeare & Co, The Strand, and Housing Works, and selling used & rare books on her own.

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