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

If you like your heroines insightful, smart, indomitable, and very flawed, then you’ll enjoy this new young detective Claire DeWitt. She will tell you herself that she is the world’s greatest private investigator...and she made a believer of me!   Claire and her two best friends first discover “Detection,” an enigmatic handbook written by the renowned French detective Jacques Silette, as teenagers in 1980s Brooklyn.  When one of the girls disappears, the other two use everything they have learned from “Detection” to try to find their missing friend, including the I Ching, omens, prophetic dreams, and mind-expanding drugs, but to no avail. Later, Claire is mentored by the brilliant New Orleans detective Constance Darling, an original disciple of Jacques Silette, until Darling herself is killed. Claire retreats to Northern California, but she is summoned back to the Crescent City to uncover the whereabouts of a respected district attorney who went missing during Hurricane Katrina.  Haunted by the unsolvable cases in her past, Claire devotes herself to uncovering the truth as she reunites with old friends and makes new friends... and new enemies. The duality that exists in all of us, that capability of doing both good and evil, is one of the focuses of the novel. Characters who start out as heroic do bad things and vice versa. And it’s unclear right to the end whether Andray Fairview, a young gang member involved in the case, is a friend or foe, but what’s certain is that he might just hold the key to solving this case.  Some of the mysteries, however, remain unsolved, which I like because it is more realistic and because it means there will probably be another Claire DeWitt book in the future!

Subtly capturing the tough realities of New Orleans-- its street violence, lost children, homeless people--Gran makes it all fresh, intriguing, and convincingly real. I became so caught up in her world, for example, that I had to fight the urge to look up “Detection” and its author Jacques Silette on the internet, even though I knew they were fiction.    

If you found Lisbeth Salander (“The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo”) intriguing, you’ll like Claire DeWitt. Her credo is that “It doesn’t matter if the whole world thinks you’re crazy. What matters is the truth.” Crazy or not—and as unlikeable as she can sometimes be--she’s still my favorite new PI.  

Review by Shirley Wells

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Claire DeWitt Novels #1) Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780547428499
Availability: Out of Print - Contact us to order used copies.
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - June 2nd, 2011