An existentially weary PI confronts three major cases that may be related in Gran’s (Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway, 2013, etc.) fragmented take on the hard-boiled mystery genre.
She wasn’t supposed to walk away from the accident, but somehow, intrepid PI Claire DeWitt survives, because, as she tells herself, she is the best detective in the world. In fact, in her whole career, there is only one mystery that she hasn’t been able to solve, other than how to live an emotionally balanced and financially successful life—the disappearance of one of her best friends when they were teenagers. So as Claire sets out to discover who is trying to kill her, the novel also cuts to this past disappearance and to one of Claire’s biggest cases in between. The latter, a murder investigation that she had to solve in order to earn her California PI license, becomes in many ways the core of the novel; the tendrils of mystery, motive, and investigation spread out across 25 years as the cases begin to converge. The quick movement from time period to time period, coupled with Claire’s intellectual and sometimes depressive musings, makes the novel slow to start, but there’s a fascinating echo in these pages of classic LA noir detective fiction from the age of Hammett and Chandler. Like Sam Spade and his ilk, Claire is jaded, but she’s driven by “the only thing that was real, [which] was solving that mystery and if I got hurt or if I got lost or if I died—no matter what came in my way and no matter who came in my way I was going to solve it.” And in seeking truth, she discovers faith, no matter how slim and how fragile, in her own existence.
Give it a bit of time to wind up and you’ll be charmed by this eccentric, enticingly artful mystery.