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CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD by Sara Gran

CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD

By Sara Gran

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-42849-9
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A Brooklyn private investigator who freely admits that she’s the best in the world goes looking for a man swallowed up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Actually, Claire DeWitt was trained by two detectives even better than her: her mentor Constance Darling, whose murder made Claire the best in the business, and Constance’s ex-teacher and ex-lover Jacques Silette, whose cult reputation as the author of the classic manual Détection didn’t help recover his kidnapped daughter. Since Constance and Silette are both unavailable, it’s no wonder that Leon Salvatore wants Claire to find his uncle, New Orleans ADA Vic Willing, two years after he vanished. What’s remarkable is that he sticks with her as long as he does before firing her. Claire’s approach to sleuthing is as Zen-like as Silette’s. She declines to interview Vic’s friends, the enemies Leon has helpfully listed, the police detectives who worked the case or even the street man who claims he saw Vic after the worst of the flooding. Instead, she promises, “I’m going to wait, and see what happens.” What happens is that she tours the sad neighborhoods the storm struck; she hooks up with Andray Fairview and Terrell, a pair of street kids who’ve seen much too much for their own good; she runs into Claire’s old friend, detective Jack Murray; she finds out a great deal about Vic Willing; and she tosses out bromides about detection. Through it all, every clue, every meeting, every dream keeps throwing Claire back into her own past, which turns out to be much more interesting than the present-day case.

Gran (Dope, 2006, etc.) provides an adequate mystery, a comically self-important detective and a searing portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans.