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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

Автором Sara Gran

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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

Автором Sara Gran

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3.5/5 (50 оценки)
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334 pages
5 hours
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Издано:
Jun 2, 2011
ISBN:
9780547548852
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“Delicious and addictive.”—Salon.com

“Reads . . . as if David Lynch directed a Raymond Chandler novel.”—CNN

  “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

This knock-out start to a bracingly original new series features Claire DeWitt, the world’s greatest PI—at least, that's what she calls herself. 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.

“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

“Reminds me why I fell in love with the genre.”—Laura Lippman

  "I love this book!" -- Sue Grafton
Издатель:
Издано:
Jun 2, 2011
ISBN:
9780547548852
Формат:

Об авторе

Sara Gran is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, including Come Closer, Dope, and the Claire DeWitt series. She also writes for film and TV and has published in the New York Times, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and USA Today.

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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead - Sara Gran

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1

IT’S MY UNCLE, the man said on the phone. He’s lost. We lost him in the storm.

Lost? I said. You mean, he drowned?

No, the man said, distressed. "Lost. I mean, yeah, he probably drowned. Probably dead. I haven’t heard from him or anything. I can’t imagine how he could still be alive."

So what’s the mystery? I said.

A crow flew overhead as we talked. I was in Northern California, near Santa Rosa. I sat at a picnic table by a clump of redwoods. A blue jay squawked nearby. Crows used to be bad omens, but now they were so common that it was hard to say.

Omens change. Signs shift. Nothing is permanent.

That night I dreamed I was back in New Orleans. I hadn’t been there in ten years. But now, in my dream, it was during the flood. I sat on a rooftop in the cool, dark night. Moonlight reflected off the water around me. It was quiet. Everyone was gone.

Across the street a man sat on another rooftop in a straight-backed chair. The man flickered in and out of focus like an old piece of film, burned through in spots from light. He was fifty or sixty, white, pale, just on this side of short, with salt-and-pepper hair and bushy eyebrows. He wore a three-piece black suit with a high collar and a black tie. He scowled.

The man looked at me sternly.

If I told you the truth plainly, the man said, you would not understand. His voice was scratchy and warped, like an old record. But I could still make out the tinge of a French accent. If life gave you answers outright, they would be meaningless. 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.

Now I recognized the man; it was, of course, Jacques Silette, the great French detective. The words were from his one and only book, Détection.

I looked around and in the black night I saw a light shimmering in the distance. As the light got closer I saw that it was a rowboat with a lantern attached to the bow.

I thought it had come to rescue us. But it was empty.

No one will save you, Silette said from his rooftop. No one will come. You are alone in your search; no friend, no lover, no God from above will come to your aid. Your mysteries are yours alone.

Silette faded in and out, flickering in the moonlight.

All I can do is leave you clues, he said. "And hope that you will not only solve your mysteries, but choose carefully the clues you leave behind. Make your choices wisely, ma’moiselle. The mysteries you leave will last for lifetimes after you are gone.

Remember: you are the only hope for those that come after you.

I woke up coughing, spitting water out of my mouth.

That morning I talked to my doctor about the dream. Then I called the man back. I took the case.

2

January 2, 2007

The client already knows the solution to his mystery. But he doesn’t want to know. He doesn’t hire a detective to solve his mystery. He hires a detective to prove that his mystery can’t be solved.

A cab dropped me off at Napoleon House in the French Quarter. The client was already there. I sat across the table from him and listened to him pretend he wanted me to solve his mystery. He didn’t know he was pretending. They never do.

My client was Leon Salvatore: male, late forties, graying and shaggy, with something that could have been a beard or maybe the leftovers of a few weeks without shaving. He looked like an old hippie who was never really a hippie at all. He wore jeans and a T-shirt that said CAMERON PARISH CRAWFISH FESTIVAL 2005 above a picture of a smiling red crawfish throwing himself into a kettle.

That would be their last crawfish festival for a while.

Leon ordered a beer. I got a Pimm’s Cup and a bowl of jambalaya.

So, I began. The last time you saw your uncle was . . .

Saw him? Leon said. "Saw him? I had an image of him sawing his uncle in half. Well, I don’t know. Maybe a few months before."

So, I began again, when was the last time you spoke to him? Or, you know, can otherwise pinpoint his location in time and space and so on.

Oh, okay, Leon said agreeably. I talked to him on the phone Sunday, the night before the storm hit. He was home, and he said he was going to stay home.

Which was . . . ?

"Just a few blocks from here. Vic lived on lower Bourbon. He was going to stay there. I tried to tell him, you know, this is not a good idea. I offered to come get him, to take him with us. I went to my girlfriend’s, former girlfriend’s, house in Abita Springs. That was a fucking mistake, but at least we were able to leave pretty easily. So I called Vic on Sunday to see if he’d changed his mind. I talked to him Friday and then again Saturday and again on Sunday. I tried to convince him to evacuate. Obviously, that didn’t work. By Monday the phones were down and . . ."

The rest of his sentence was obvious and he didn’t say it out loud.

So, Leon went on with his story. You know. It was a while before I was worried. It was a few days before we could get out of Abita Springs. We were safe up there, but we didn’t have any power or water or anything and not a lot of food, so we left when they had the roads cleared. Cleared of the big stuff. It still took us about ten hours to get to Memphis—we had to clear shit off the road every few miles. So, first we went to Memphis for a while, maybe seven days, but that was really crowded and all we could get was this tiny hotel room out near Graceland. And it was full of, you know, Superdome people, and they were really angry, and, you know. It was kind of scary. So then we flew to, hmm, Austin. Right. We have some friends out there and we stayed in a trailer on their place for a while. Then they had some friends coming and we had to go, so we went to stay with some friends in Tampa for a few weeks. Then we went back to Abita Springs for a while. Then—

The waiter brought our drinks and my food. He set everything down on the table carefully, just so, and I could tell it was the first day he’d ever waited tables.

Anyway, Leon said when the waiter left. What was I saying?

Your uncle, I reminded him.

Right, he said. "Vic. So it was a while before I realized he was, you know, missing. I mean missing missing. Disappeared, not just, uh, misplaced. See, I knew he didn’t have phone service, and I figured he lost his cell phone or it never started working again or whatever, so I wasn’t surprised not to hear from him for a while. Not for a few days. I figured he probably wouldn’t go to the Superdome or the Convention Center. They were forcing people to go, but he was a smart guy and I figured he’d avoid that. And he had, you know, connections. He wasn’t just some guy."

He wasn’t. I hadn’t known Vic Willing, but I knew who he was. Vic Willing had been an assistant district attorney for the New Orleans prosecutors’ office for more than twenty years. He was fifty-six at the time of the storm. He prosecuted murderers and rapists and drug dealers. Like most New Orleans prosecutors, he didn’t do it very well. But he did it better than the other prosecutors in his office. He was known as a square-dealing, decently intelligent DA who probably could have actually won cases had he been someplace else—someplace where the cops and the DAs were on speaking terms, someplace where there were less than three or four murders a week, someplace where the prosecutors had secretaries and their own copy machines and government-issued phones.

I’d seen him in court, but I’d never spoken to him. Vic was from a rich neighborhood Uptown, and most of the lawyers from his world—and there were plenty of them—went into something way more lucrative. On any given day in court, Vic would be wearing the most expensive suit in the place. If anyone minded, they kept it to themselves. New Orleans was a little like England: people were comfortable with class distinctions.

Vic had disappeared sometime after August 28, 2005. His French Quarter apartment didn’t flood. The whole neighborhood suffered only wind damage and minor flooding from a burst water pipe under the wax museum. He had plenty of food and water available from the dozens of restaurants nearby, some of which stayed open, all of which were broken in to and left open. He even had a small backup generator in his building—not uncommon in New Orleans, where power outages were at least monthly and more often weekly, depending on the time of year and your neighborhood. Leon had looked for Vic, and Vic’s friends had looked for Vic, and even the cops had looked for Vic. They had found nothing.

He’d vanished.

"Now, by the next Saturday, Leon continued, after they’d cleaned out the city, I started to worry. I mean, really worry. Because he should have been able to get to a phone by then. There were bulletin boards you could check. Places online you could check for missing people. So I started with the bulletin boards, the phone calls, all that. I called all the evacuee centers, the nursing homes, the hospitals. Nothing."

Any leads? I asked.

Leon shook his head. "No. No sign of him. I followed up every ‘Elderly’ or ‘Middle-Aged White Male’ I came across. And there were a lot of them. You know, some people just lost it. Especially older folks—a lot of them couldn’t take the strain and just cracked, mentally. A lot of people didn’t know who the hell they were anymore. Thank God for the Internet. You know, hospitals put pictures of old people up, hoping someone would claim them. Young people too. Especially anyone who was, you know, disabled, or ill, or mentally ill to begin with. He paused. It was kind of like a lost and found. But for people."

We were quiet for a minute. The sun came out for the first time all day. It lit up Leon’s face just enough to show his scars and then went back behind a cloud. He was scarred under the surface, scars you wouldn’t see unless you’d trained your eyes to see.

Leon frowned and continued. Anyway. So I did all that. I called hospitals, nursing homes, I went through all the aid groups, everyone. Nothing. No sign of him. I tried the coroner’s office here in the city, thinking maybe they had him. Nothing. That’s more or less where I gave up. And then I called you.

So, I said. What do you think happened?

I don’t know, Leon said. I mean, the storm—there were some people you just never saw again. It wasn’t like a war, where someone comes and knocks on the door and tells you that your loved one is deceased or whatever. There was no organization or anything like that. People just disappeared.

We looked at each other.

How tall was he? I asked.

Tall? Leon said. Tall? About six feet? That’s what people say when they don’t know how tall a man is. For a woman the answer is five-five. In any case, he was probably close to that, and the water was nowhere near that high in the Quarter. If he’d drowned, he would have had to try pretty hard to do it.

Is it possible he went to help? I asked. Went out on one of the rescue boats?

Well, sure, Leon said. "It’s possible. I guess he could have drowned someplace else. I guess he could have gone toward the water, trying to help, but you know, I don’t think so. Vic wasn’t exactly that type. Not that he was a bad guy, Leon qualified. I mean, he was nice and everything. But swimming around helping people, getting dirty—I don’t really see him doing that. He wore these buckskin shoes in the summer and if someone stepped on them, you know, he wasn’t happy. So, no, I don’t see that. Anyway. He could have been out somewhere, looking for food or whatever, just walking, and he could have been drowned that way. You hear about these walls of water—it’s hard to know exactly what happened where. But it’s unlikely. So, you know. That’s pretty much all I can say."

We looked at each other for a minute. I shivered. The air was forty degrees and gray, hovering next to snow. This being the South, it was unlikely it would ever quite get there.

Tell me about your uncle, I said.

He was a lawyer, Leon said. You know that.

Yes, I said. I know that. What was he like as a person?

Huh, Leon said, as if thinking about it for the first time. Well. You know. He seemed nice. We weren’t really close. We used to all get together over the years for Thanksgiving and Christmas, birthdays, funerals, whatever. After my mom passed on, I was Vic’s only family here in town, so I tried to check in with him every once in a while. Probably not as often as I should have. But he was busy. Work kept him real busy and he had this big social life—he went to balls and that kind of thing, all that rich-person stuff. He was in a lot of clubs, a lot of Mardi Gras stuff. Hmm. He’d lived in New Orleans all his life. I think you know all this.

Where’s the rest of the family? I asked.

Well. My parents are gone. They’re gone for a long time now. Vic was my mother’s brother. My sisters, one is in New York and one is in L.A. They’re great. On my father’s side there’s still a lot of people here in the city, but that’s another family. They saw Vic at holidays and stuff like that, but they weren’t close. And Vic, he never had kids. He dated, you know, but nothing ever developed. I don’t think he wanted it to develop. I think he liked living alone.

"So as far as that family goes, your mother’s family, it was just the two of you?"

Leon nodded. Here in the city, yes. Just us two. It was just my mother and Vic. They had some cousins, but they were older and they’re all gone now.

Did you love your uncle? I asked.

Well, Leon said, frowning. He was my uncle.

’Cause you know, I said. This kind of investigation is going to be a lot of money and a lot of time and you might not like what you find out. So if you didn’t love him, you might want to rethink this while you can. It’s a big thing, and there’s no going back.

Leon paused for a minute before he answered. I finished my jambalaya. The waiter came and took my bowl and spoon and napkin just as slowly and carefully as he had given them to me.

Vic left me everything, Leon finally said. He didn’t have to do that. He had this property—little pieces of land all over the city. He’d inherited it all from his father. I knew there’d been some money there but I didn’t know there was that much. It probably would have gone to me no matter what. There was no one else. But Vic, he went to a lawyer and made a will. He made sure I got everything and knew where it was and all that. He paused again and frowned. "I thought I would be okay. Until I started cleaning out the apartment. His apartment. And then I realized it wasn’t right. It wasn’t right to leave him like this. I guess I feel like I owe him. Like maybe I owe it to him to find out what happened. Personally—well, he’s my uncle. It’s not like I didn’t love him. It’s not that I don’t like him or anything like that. I just. Well. You know."

I know, I said.

You know what it says in the Bible, Leon said with resignation. "Look out for thine uncle as you would thineself. Or whatever."

I don’t think that’s in the Bible, I said. But it’s a nice thought.

Leon shrugged.

Oh, and there’s one more thing, he said. A kind of important thing. Even though I don’t really think it’s true.

What’s that? I asked.

There’s someone who says he saw him.

"Saw him?" I asked.

This crazy guy, Leon said. Jackson. I mean, I don’t think that’s his real name, but that’s what people call him. And I don’t think he’s that crazy, either, but he’s, you know, a street person. He hangs out in Jackson Square. Homeless guy. Used to be a musician, I think. I don’t really know. Anyway, I saw him when I came back in town and we stopped to talk for a few minutes. And he said he had seen Vic. He knew that Vic was my uncle. Jackson said he saw Vic down near the Convention Center. On Thursday.

Thursday, I said. "After the big flood?"

So he says, Leon said doubtfully. He said they stopped and talked and Vic gave him a few dollars.

Thursday, I said. So that would mean he was still alive after the worst of the flood. No wall of water or anything like that.

Well, yes, that’s what it would mean, Leon said. He shrugged. I don’t know. Jackson’s a nice guy but, you know. I’m not sure he has a firm grasp on the day of the week.

We sat quietly for a minute.

Can I ask you a question? Leon said.

Yes, I said. Ask.

How old are you?

Forty-two, I said. I was thirty-five. But no one trusts a woman under forty. I’d started being forty when I was twenty-nine.

Wow, Leon said. Sorry. Just, you know. You look really young. Wow. Do you do something, or—?

Water, I said. I drink a lot of water. Eat a lot of fresh fruit. And I do a lot of yoga. I’d never done yoga. I rarely drank water. It really helps with the collagen.

And I heard you were in the hospital, maybe, Leon said hesitantly. That there was some issue regarding—

Oh, no, I said. "That. No. Not a hospital. It’s crazy how rumors spread. That was like a retreat I did. Like an ashram? I’d never been to an ashram. I’d had something like a nervous breakdown and had ended up in the hospital. Now can I ask you something?"

Okay, Leon said agreeably. Sure.

Why me? I asked. ’Cause you know I’m one of the most expensive detectives in the world. And with travel expenses and everything. And the rumors.

Leon frowned and sighed. Well, I asked around, and people said you were the best.

That’s true, I said. I am.

So what do we do now? Leon asked. I don’t really know how this is supposed to work. Do you need to talk to his friends or anything like that?

No, I said. Not yet.

Do you want to talk to the police? Leon asked. I mean, they did try, so—

No, I said.

Do you want a list of suspects? ’Cause you know, as a lawyer, he made a lot of enemies, so I figured—

No thanks, I said. No. I’m not that kind of detective.

So. What are you going to do?

I’m going to wait, I said. I’m going to wait, and see what happens.

Leon frowned.

Oh, he said. Oh.

When the waiter brought the bill he dropped it on the floor next to the table, and when he picked it up a rumpled, dirty little piece of paper was stuck to the fake leather wallet. It was a business card. I picked it up. On the card was a poorly drawn picture of a bird flying over rooftops.

NINTH WARD CONSTRUCTION, it said. WE CAN DO IT!

Underneath was an address in the Lower Ninth Ward and a phone number. It wasn’t constructing anything now.

I turned it over. A name was written in ballpoint pen on the back. Underneath was a message: Frank. Call me I can help!

I put the card carefully in my wallet and put it in my purse.

The first clue.

3

IN MY ROOM that night I looked over the file I’d started on Vic Willing. On the inside front cover of the file I’d taped a picture of Vic I’d printed out from the Bar Association website. Vic was fifty-six, male, white, formerly blond, now silver-haired, five-ten—which was taller in New Orleans than in, say, San Francisco or New York—fit enough, good-looking enough, blue-eyed, and wearing an expensive tie. I suspected that he always wore expensive ties.

Also in his file I had his last three credit card statements, banking records for six months, e-mails from his easy-to-hack e-mail account, and medical records. Vic had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, common enough, especially here. Elevated PSA levels could have meant something, but his prostate health hardly mattered now.

As for his shopping, well, his ties were expensive, a hundred bucks a pop. So were his hats, his suits, his shoes—even his underwear was silk. He went to expensive restaurants and hotel bars a few nights a week, probably to meet with other lawyers. His e-mails were just as predictable, concerning work, meetings, and occasional social events with friends. He wasn’t married and never had been. The society columns occasionally showed him at fundraisers, where he went with friends or friends’ wives or other lawyers. I figured he was gay.

A few days ago I’d sent out e-mails to detectives I knew and lawyers I knew and people I knew from New Orleans. It turned out plenty of people I knew knew Vic Willing, had met him or spoken to him or knew someone who had. Their answers were in the file.

A prince, most people said. A really good guy. Really good. Generous. Always had time for you, at least a little, considering how valuable his time was. There was the time he bailed his adversary, the defense lawyer Hal Sherman, out of OPP, the notorious Orleans Parish Prison. There was the pro bono consulting work he did on the Shimmel case, on his own time, and there was the job he’d gotten for Harry Terrebone when he got out of rehab and no one else would touch him. He even volunteered, when time allowed, mentoring the young men of New Orleans and encouraging them to abandon their murderous ways. Stay in school, kids. Don’t use drugs. Murder is bad. Et cetera.

He was my go-to guy at the DA’s office, one retired NOPD cop wrote in an e-mail. The only one you could deal with. You know what they’re like. But Vic was different. You could really talk to him. The cops and the DAs in New Orleans had a long-running feud. It was like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Except when the bullets went flying, it was everyone else who got shot.

Rumors of bribes and corruption hounded the DA’s office. Those kinds of accusations were commonplace in any law enforcement bureau—after all, even the most honest agents of the law made mistakes, and people who really did commit crimes didn’t like to admit it. And all departments had their bad apples. But in New Orleans most of the apples were bad and most of the accusations were true. Bribery and corruption were everyday business here.

But none of the accusations tainted Vic Willing. An honest lawyer, another detective I knew wrote. If there is such a thing.

If I were a cop I’d look at Leon for offing Vic. But I was no cop. Leon could probably kill someone if circumstances called for

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  • (4/5)
    Claire Dewitt is a youngish, bad ass, pot smoking, pill popping, drinks to much, PI and I like her a great deal. I liked the story but the narrator did not make me feel it. It took me a couple of CD's to actually get into Claire's character. It took me back to the horrible tragedy that happened to New Orleans and made me really think "How did that even happen in the United States?" It sounded like something that happened to another country, not this one. I think it is saying a lot for a book if it makes you think and feel outside of it's own story line.
  • (4/5)
    Detective Claire DeWitt returns to New Orleans to track down a man who went missing during Hurricane Katrina.I enjoyed Claire's distinctive narrative voice and her unusual approach to detection. Rather than follow logic, she follows instinct, based on synchronicity, dreams, visions, and the obscure methods of a French detective Sillette. This story, set in New Orleans a little over a year after Katrina, is also appropriately dreamlike, as the clues take Claire to various abandoned and storm-ravaged areas of the city, as well as into memories of her past. While I didn't find the mystery itself all that surprising, I enjoyed the journey of getting to the solution very much. Along the way, Gran had some interesting observations to make about the nature of the detective, as well as about guilt and atonement.
  • (2/5)
    I wanted to love this book, given its smart smattering of voodoo, its gritty hard boiled feel, and its sympathetic portrayal of the criminal and impoverished in New Orleans. But I couldn't get through it. It seems like an artful book, but something in it or in me isn't working at the moment.
  • (5/5)
    I enjoyed this book. The story was good. I did get tired of the drugs and alcohol. But I really enjoyed was all the philosophical tidbits that she had gleaned from a book, "Detection" (1959) by Jacques Silette, a genius detective (Note that I don't think this is a real book). Those tidbits, along with an interesting story line, made the book quite enjoyable.
  • (2/5)
    A bit mixed, the writing was OK (I managed to finish it :-) but it was confused and at times seemed to be part of a series relying on too much past story which only became revealed later.
  • (4/5)
    I had to notch this one down a half star from 4 to 3.5. I did enjoy the book and the writing was excellent - the dialogue was also catchy and, at times, quite hilarious. The main reason I knocked a star off the review was because of the protagonist. Quite frankly, I couldn't find her to be a likable character. She lies, gets high and/or drunk at the drop of a hat (sometimes both) and has a warped way of looking at things - to the point that I often just could not identify with her at all. Also, the whole thing with the Detection book showing up in certain situations was too far-fetched to be believable. As well as the business card that she accidentally finds on her first day ... which ultimately leads her to the final clue of the puzzle. A little too coincidental. Those were a couple examples of things I had some issues with.But don't let that turn you away from reading the book - it is worth the time. It gives you a realistic feel for the city of New Orleans and the aftermath of the storm. It paints a pretty pathetic picture of the city as a whole - which might explain why the character of Claire DeWitt claims she loves the city. I can't imagine why anyone would love a place like that, but with someone like Claire and her twisted viewpoint, I guess it makes some kind of sense.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent reading. Raymond Chandler meets Borges. Sartre throws the I Ching
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    Just when you think someone can't come up with a new way to spin a mystery along comes Sara Gran and her uber-detective, Claire DeWitt. But the main character in this story is New Orleans. The city's PR folks won't take kindly to Gran's portrait of this violent city of lost children but her descriptions of Katrina and its aftermath are heartwrenching and real. I got up in the middle of the night to finish this book. Claire DeWitt says throughout the book that she doesn't believe in happy endings but Gran apparently does believe in redemption.
  • (2/5)
    I am not sure where to start with this book. New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina will always be a fascinating topic and Sara Gran paints a disturbing but lively picture of the torn city. It may be a little darker than one would expect but... it is believable. To some extent. And that's where the good news end for this book. It should have been an enjoyable book - a detective is hired to find a missing person that just happens to be very rich and somewhat famous. But the book is riddled with coincidences, people being at the right time at the right moment (and then talking to our girl), memories and dreams that probably go under the "New Age" banner but still don't work (and which include a book that is "THE book" for Claire) and almost no mystery. Or detecting. The solutions and clues seem to be coming from nowhere and lead to nowhere; things just... happen. Add to this a very annoying protagonist (I can stand an annoying detective if the story is good) and the book is a mess. Claire's observations redeem the book a bit but way too often they come out of nowhere as well...I must admit that I am not a fan to the whole psychic/new age/whatever you want to call it style of novels - especially mysteries. So it is not a big surprise that it was not exactly my cup of tea. But it was even worse than I expected... And it cannot even be attributed to an attempt to making a funny book or a spoof of the genre...
  • (3/5)
    Story Synopsis: Clair DeWitt is, self-proclaimed, the world’s greatest private detective. She relies on a particular book, Jacques Silette’s Détection, as well as I Ching, omens, dreams and drugs to solve mysteries. In this case she is trying to find out what happened to a district attorney during and after Katrina.Review: I wondered if the author would ever pull all of the threads of this story together. The book finally gelled in the last chapter with a not too surprising climax.
  • (1/5)
    Received as an Audio Advance Reader copy and hate to admit, I didn't get past the first disc. Partly my fault...I just don't do well with audio's and partly, the book just never grabbed me.
  • (4/5)
    Claire DeWitt is a hard boiled detective-tattooed, reefer smoker, drinker. A disciple of the famous detective, Jacques Silette, she knew from the moment she read his tome, Detection, she knew that's her calling. She studied under his student, Constance and, upon her passing, became the best detective in the world.She is called back to New Orleans where she lived for a time, to find out what happened to noted N.O. District Attorney, Vic Walling. He has not been seen since Hurricane Katrina.Along the way to the conclusion of this mystery, DeWitt describes New Orleans (from which I just returned from vacation so I could recognize the places she spoke of), describes unsolved mysteries (her friend Tracy who disappeared when they were teenagers and Jacques Silette's daughter, Belle), quotes from Silette's book, Detection, and meets strange and interested characters and former acquaintances (many of whom are not happy to see her).Vaguely reminiscent of Lisbeth from Steig Larsson's series the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, DeWitt has more charm and personality and you immediately like her. You become intrigued with Silette and the quotes from his book.Sara Gran has created a detective who should make her mark in the mystery genre and become a staple of mystery fans. She's tough. She's smart. She's the best detective in the world. Read Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead. (Do you know why New Orleans is called the city of the dead? If not, it's an interesting story.)
  • (4/5)
    Very different sort of mystery, and quite good. Claire DeWitt is the best detective in the world (according to her), and she's just been hired to find Leon Salvatore's uncle Vic, a D.A. in New Orleans, missing for about a year and a half since Hurricane Katrina. Using the methods of the famous detective Jacques Silette, as detailed in his tome Détection (apparently fictional, but seems oh so weirdly real), the tattooed young Claire sets to work... casting I Ching hexagrams to see what they portend, wandering around the tattered, dangerous city chatting with street youths like Andray and Terrell, smoking joints with them that have a little extra synthetic kick, and waiting for the clues to reveal themselves. It's kind of like detecting as the mutant love child of a Sherlock Holmes, Nostradamus, and Zen Master threesome. Claire does eventually solve the mystery, but the truly interesting story is the fascinating portrayal (and indictment) of a shell shocked, devastated and corrupt New Orleans, the glimpses of its former vibrancy, and the gradual and partial revealing of Claire's troubled history with its own mystery.The drug overuse and zen detecting mysticism weren't quite to my taste so I wasn't altogether sucked into the story, but it was interesting and well written. I'm not sure that any librarians should read it before the annual conference held in New Orleans this summer, as they may then be fearful of leaving their hotel rooms. :) I read this courtesy of a galley from the publisher and NetGalley.
  • (5/5)
    Quirky and delightful. Claire DeWitt is an unusual detective following in the footsteps of the French detective Silette and his cult classic book, Detection. She is an observer par excellence and bends and breaks rules as necessary. The story is set in New Orleans and paints a vivid picture of life post-Katrina. Grans incorporates imagery, dreams, past and present into this mystery. This is a novel of lost but likeable souls and endings which are not always happy.
  • (3/5)
    Claire Dewitt is an "intuitive" private detective who supplements normal investigative techniques with drinking, dreaming, the I Ching, and smoking formaldehyde-laced reefers with street gangs. She is hired by the nephew of a prominent, wealthy DA who disappeared during Hurricane Katrina to discover his fate. While the descriptions of post-Katrina New Orleans and its psychologically damaged residents feel very authentic, many of Claire's investigative techniques are so bizarre that I had a hard time finishing the book. It had far too many dreams, flashbacks, I Ching tosses, and rambling philosophical passages to sustain my interest. Two stars for story and content, and one more for style.
  • (4/5)
    Claire DeWitt is a brilliant private detective, trained by Constance Darling who instilled in her the tenets of Jacques Silette's book Détection. Claire's techniques are unusual: she relies a great deal on intuition, dreams and drug-fueled visions for answers to her questions. Though her methods may be unorthodox, she is very successful, and as a result, very expensive.Having been unable to locate his uncle, D.A. Vic Willing in post-Katrina New Orleans, Leon Salvatore hires Claire some 18 months later. Although Leon says he chose Claire because he'd heard she was "the best", it's obvious he doesn't really expect her to succeed. In response to his question about how she'll proceed, she responds "I'm going to wait and see what happens".While "waiting" she wanders the city, encountering and questioning seemingly random people. But her instincts never seem to lead her astray; she finds two young men who say they knew Willing. Sure that they're hiding something important, she befriends them.She comes across people she'd known when she lived in New Orleans, another detective trained by Constance; a social worker. She asks some questions, drinks a great deal, smokes some questionable cigarettes. Throughout it all, she shares her labyrinthine thought processes, dreams and memories, which help the reader to understand her, as well as aiding in her quest.Written in the first person from Claire's point of view, the story is compelling and totally consuming. The reader is Claire as she roams the storm-struck, desolate streets of New Orleans. Read it slowly, the better to savor Gran's exquisite prose.*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher, who sent me an Advance Review Copy.
  • (4/5)
    An atmospheric mystery, an intriguing heroine, and a look at post-hurricane New Orleans that was more affecting that any news show I've seen. Well worth the time.
  • (4/5)
    If you like a smart detective who is gritty, tough, and a woman pick up Claire Dewitt. When I found out it was going to be a series my first thought (and not my last) was "Oh no I don't think I can stand another series," but after finishing the book my last thought was "I'm in!" Can't wait to read the next. Why not join me?
  • (4/5)
    Claire deWitt, the "greatest detective in the world" has been hired to solve a disappearance in post-Katrina New Orleans. DeWitt wasn't what I expected, but found myself at varying times liking her and being disgusted by her behaviors while on the job. She tries to be a hard-boiled detective, but doesn't quite pull it off. The fact that I LOVE New Orleans made the book more enjoyable. I could picture the streets as the character was driving around the city. The loose ends are neatly tied up at the end. New Orleans is still in recovery from Katrina. Many of the streets are dirty, with broken down and boarded up houses. The crime rate in the Crescent City is high compared to other large cities. I miss the green parrots who haven't really returned to New Orleans. A friend said he used to sit on the balcony in the evening and count green parrots. Only a few returned to the city. I hope the next book solves the mystery of Dewitt's missing childhood friend.
  • (4/5)
    Refreshingly different, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran introduces a new type of female P.I., as she says herself less a detective by choice than by calling. Following in the footsteps of her mentor, P.I. Constance Darling, and guided by the writings of renown French detective Jacques Silette, Claire follows clues by own instinct, be it by discerning the I Ching, her dreams or mind-expanding drugs. I loved the blurb on the back of the book that describes her as, “a cool blend of Nancy Drew and Sid Vicious”.Returning to her training ground of New Orleans to take the case of a missing lawyer who hasn’t been seen since Hurricane Katrina, Claire brings a lot of baggage with her, and by baggage, I don’t mean suitcases. Haunted by a girlhood tragedy when one of her best friends disappeared, this is also her first return to New Orleans since the murder of her mentor. As Claire cruises the streets of New Orleans, the devastation that Hurricane Katrina wrought is shown again and again.A fearless author who seems quite willing to go anywhere her mind takes her, this is far from a linear read. Jumping around, to the past, back to the present, and into dreams Claire slowly puts the pieces together, and we are treated to a innovative, intelligent story that hopefully is the introduction to a new series.
  • (4/5)
    The audio version of Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead made my commute to work very enjoyable. You know you have a good audio book when you want to sit in the parking lot and listen all day! Carol Monda gave the perfect voice to Sara Gran's Claire, an unorthodox detective, to say the least. The tale itself was gripping; I couldn't wait to hear more about and from the characters in the story's present and from Claire's past. I enjoyed this version so much that I plan to read the book as well. I received the Audio CD version of this novel through Early Reviewers.
  • (4/5)
    A friend of mine described Claire deWitt to me as “180 degrees from Nancy Drew”; I have to agree many times over. This debut of the series is set in New Orleans one-and-one-half years after Katrina and concerns a man who went missing during that hurricane.Claire uses the I Ching, vivid dreams and a book written by her dead French mentor to be “the best detective in the world”. The only way you’ll come close to finding this solvable is to follow Claire’s mantra to believe nobody and trust nothing.There is a dark side to both Claire and to post-Katrina New Orleans (the titular city of the dead) but I can’t help but think that Claire’s tongue is firmly in her cheek a lot of the time.Read this if: you’re interested in Katrina’s devastation in the poverty-stricken Lower Ninth Ward; or you want a fresh new voice in a mystery series and don’t mind the spiritistic elements. 3½ stars
  • (4/5)
    Very noir, very zen, esoteric as heck, also very strange, and yet...I liked it. I thought the writing was good, the dialogue added to the verity of the place and time. Yes, I had to concentrate so as not to lose the thread, because it did jump around a lot ~ present, back to childhood, present, back to young adulthood, recent past, present, and so on. It wasn't a cliffhanger, but Grun very skillfully set it up for a continuing series. Lots of mysteries to solve ~ who really killed Constance and why? What really happened to Tracy? Finally, the descriptions of N.O. during and after Katrina were vivid and heart-wrenching. I had no idea and realize I need to read more about that terrible event. I've got "Zetoun" on my iPod and have been meaning to read it; better get to it soon.
  • (4/5)
    Enjoyed it! The protagonist is an anti-heroine, very flawed and taken to using drugs and unconventional methods of getting the job done - but, she does get the job done. I enjoy anti-heroines much better than goody-goodie heroines, so this series will be a "win" for me!
  • (5/5)
    I always thought I didn’t like mysteries. Obviously, I’ve been reading the wrong ones. I can admit when I’m wrong. Maybe it it’s the offbeat way the mystery is solved or the setting which is more than a map of clues but also a background for a messed up detective trying to figure out how to fit back into society and whether or not she wants to go through with the plan or leave everything behind.Claire Dewitt is a detective with issues. A stint in a hospital has left her slightly skittish, mentally, but also slightly interested in getting back to work. When a client seeks her out, she decides it might be time to test her own enthusiasm for work. A case of a missing district attorney brings her home to New Orleans --- a city newly devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Claire starts feeling around for clues in her unorthodox way but what she finds has more to do with herself than the case she’s being paid to resolve.There are so many things wrong with Claire and not the little things we all might be able to relate to on some level. She’s screwed up; really screwed up. A one-time teenage detective, she carries around guilt over never having found a friend who went missing. She’s an addict --- drugs, alcohol, and the above mentioned strange and scary array of guilt. Like crazy guilt. And she’s eccentric, especially inher detecting style. A devout follower of Jaques Silette’s mysterious detective handbook, Detection, she uses out of the ordinary techniques such as omens and mind-enhancing drugs to seek out clues. In fact, she isn’t the type of detective who looks for clues at all. She waits for them to find her. It’s an interesting way of looking at things for someone who is supposed to be a detective.There are so many small mysteries surrounding Claire that the main case of the missing district attorney seems almost background noise to what’s really going on with her. New Orleans is a haunted place for Claire and many times you wonder what it is she’s chasing. Is it her own demons or one more clue that found its way out of the ether into her head which is already full of scary ideas? You also aren’t surprised when her client, the only one she has, wants to fire her. Oddly, you’re not surprised either when she manages to have an explanation for everything in the end. Well, not everything, but enough to make you wonder exactly what is with the woman. There is so much to love about this book and I’m not sure I’m doing it justice so here’s my plea to you --- read it. I recommend it highly.
  • (3/5)
    Enjoyed the setting of New Orleans. Didn't care for Claire.
  • (3/5)
    I don't know what to think about this book. I was liking it a lot until about half way and then I wasn't liking it much at all. Maybe, it was just too dark, too depressing. I think Gran tried to lighten it with the bit about the parrots but the grimness of New Orleans was so unrelenting. I did admire the writing.
  • (3/5)
    This was okay - it was interesting to read, as a detective novel in the vein of Dashiell Hamet. Its the first of this kind I have read so it took a bit to get used to. Also she is more spiritual - she relies on spiritual clues as well as regular ones. Also, the plot revolves around a child-abuse situation, whixh is why it probably left a bad taste in my mouth. It is definitely a base for a series though, you see glimpses of her past, both as a kid and as a trainee in the profession, but this is not her first or even her 50th case, so those details are only hinted at. The characters are compelling, as is the setting - New Orleans- and well-drawn so it feels like you are there in the scene, but the style is a bit of a snag.
  • (3/5)
    Quirky modern mystery that doesn't shy away from tricky topics (the murder being solved took place during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans). Detective Claire DeWitt is damaged and also wacky, and the wackiness was just a tad too much for me; her detective manual, as it were, is a supremely bizarre book about, I don't know, the nature of innocence and guilt, from which we see copious quotes, and she also consults an I Ching. It all sort of works out fine structurally, but the wackiness doesn't quite match the tone of the supremely depressing mystery.

    Ultimately, I enjoyed it, and it's worth taking a look if you're tired of formulaic or cozy mysteries. But I won't be first in line for the sequel, I'm sorry to say.