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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Claire DeWitt Novels) Hardcover – June 2, 2011
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"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."--BooklistPRAISE 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
From the Inside Flap
Claire DeWitt is the worlds greatest PI, a one-time teen detective in Brooklyn and follower of the enigmatic French detective Jacques Silette, whose mysterious handbook Détection has led Claire to use the I-Ching, omens, prophetic dreams, and mind-expanding drugs.
Claire also has deep roots in New Orleans, where she was mentored by the brilliant Constance Darlinguntil Darling was murdered. When a respected New Orleans DA goes missing during Hurricane Katrina, she returns to her newly wrecked former city to find out why. The clues lead her to Andray Fairview, a young man who had nothing to lose before the storm and has less now. Finding old friends and making new enemies, Claire solves the case, but shes haunted by others gone missing: her best friend and partner in detection, who disappeared from a New York City subway station in 1986, and Jacques Silettes daughter, Belle, stolen from a hotel room and never heard from again.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a knockout start to a bracingly original new series.
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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. But Gran takes what could be a straight-forward tale of a society in turmoil and complicates it unnecessarily with DeWitt's convoluted back-story; one that includes the murder of her mentor; her fixation on Silette, an enigmatic French detective with a missing daughter (a detective whose seminal volume on detection is DeWitt's bible); her unresolved guilt about another missing child, this one a friend from her past and -- well, in the end, I stopped caring. The book's presumed plot -- a case involving a missing lawyer and a young, sensitive street kid -- is ultimately swamped by too many incidental characters, tangents and absurd coincidences. (What on Earth is that street kid doing with a copy of Silette's book?) Gran tries to tie everything together, but it's a high wire act she can't quite pull off.
The blurb on the back of "Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead" (talk about grandiose) describes Claire as -- yes, indeed -- "the world's greatest private eye, heir to Sam Spade, Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew." Uh...Sam Spade, Sherlock Holmes and...Nancy Drew? This completely mismatched group of fictional detectives is a perfect indication of, and metaphor for, the ambitious, misguided, unsatisfying confusion that this book actually delivers.
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.
This book will garner a full range of reactions. I found my reactions seesawing between wanting to award five stars for scenes of amazing brilliance or give it one star and declare it a pretentious waste of time for the pseudo philosophy that sprouted up between the action like weeds popping up in a broken sidewalk. Then halfway through I began to see: Claire is either an aimless stoner or the best detective in the world; Vic Willing is either a good guy killed for the sins of others or a bad man who got what was coming to him; Andray Fairview is either the murderer that his background predicts or he isn't.
Or maybe all these things are true at once. Maybe, maybe not. The clue is the green parrots. Sara Gran has written a novel that uses every cliche in the hard-boiled mystery genre by throwing it overboard into rising flood waters. Sink or swim...but read it!
Most recent customer reviews
Multiple levels of mystery with an overlay of drug trippiness.
A fascinating read with many interesting twists and turns.Read more