Claire DeWitt is not your average private investigator. In fact, she’s the greatest detective in all the world, an accolade she wears without irony. “Ho-kay,” you may be saying to yourself, wondering what the punchline is. There isn’t one. Claire’s world is like ours, complete with a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, but it is a world in which detection is a calling, a 1959 French manual called Detection by Jacques Silette (himself shrouded in myth and mystery) is a bible, and Claire’s mentor, Constance, at her death, passed the torch of “best detective in the world” on to Claire, who eventually moved away from New Orleans. If you can’t suspend disbelief and go with that, this is not the book for you. If you can, however, you’re in for a treat.
Claire returns to New Orleans for a case; a client has hired her to find his uncle, who went missing during Hurricane Katrina. Her New Orleans is dark, scarred, and not a little seedy, never recovered from the devastation: “Some people, I saw, had drowned right away. And some people were drowning in slow motion, drowning a little bit at a time, and would be drowning for years. And some people, like Mick, had always been drowning. They just hadn’t known what to call it until now.” How do you find one drowned person in a city filled with them? Claire digs in, using all her available resources, including prescription and street drugs to open her consciousness, the I Ching she learned from Constance, dream analysis, and the classic PI strategy of lying.
Claire is a hard-boiled PI with a twist (the occult fascination, the drugs, the “best detective in the world” thing). She is, naturally, haunted by her past. In this case, it’s the disappearance of a friend years ago. We learn details about this event and the trauma and investigation following it as the current investigation progresses. She’s also funny.
“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–?”
“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.”
If you enjoy a good mystery with humor and are open to an unconventional story, you can’t go wrong with CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD.
Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher.