Title: Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead
Author: Sara Gran
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Mariner Books
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Claire DeWitt, private detective, left New Orleans in a hurry years ago, but now she’s returned to the city. Claire is investigating the disappearance of a beloved assistant district attorney named Vic Willing, who went missing in the post-Katrina chaos. Claire must rely on old contacts and friends-turned-enemies to understand the complicated truth behind what really happened to Vic, even as forces work against her to ensure she will never know Vic’s fate.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a gritty private detective novel set in all the awful wonder of post-Katrina New Orleans. Gran brings this city to life for the reader; her descriptions are vivid and readers will be able to smell the air of the city as Claire tries to uncover what happened to Vic. As someone who loved the city before the tragedy of Katrina, it’s interesting to see New Orleans from Claire’s perspective. She comments on the effects of Katrina on tourist areas versus the places people actually live in New Orleans; there are also some well-described accounts of the hours (and days) during and after the storm. If you’re looking for a fascinating yet heartbreaking account of this city and the lingering effects of Katrina, this novel is a great choice.
Claire is an interesting main character in Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead. She’s great at her job; she has top-notch instincts and knows when to follow her gut. Claire has a fascinating philosophy towards detecting, described in detail through quotes from a book she relies on. She’s determined and resourceful, unafraid to reach out to any possible connection in order to solve her case. But Claire is also a loner; she’s separated herself from everyone who might have cared for her at some point. She alienates friends, enemies, and clients, seeking only the truth. She’s not difficult to like, but she can be very brash and definitely rubs people the wrong way at times.
Gran does an excellent job with the characters in Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, both major and minor. Claire is excellently written, but so is every character in this novel. Even the most minor, secondary character is well thought out. Gran’s ability to develop her characters is admirable, as is her pacing of the story. It moves slowly, but realistically; this is a novel more about the sights, smells, and feelings of New Orleans than an action-packed thriller. If you’re looking for lightning pace, this may not satisfy you, but a well-crafted and suspenseful literary thriller? It definitely is that.
The first in a series, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a promising start. It’s got an intriguing main character and a well-plotted storyline, all while evoking amazing atmosphere and having a timely message. This book takes time to build, but it’s worth sticking with; I’ll definitely be seeking out the next novels in this series.