Review : Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

24 Aug

It’s the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and all the havoc she wrought, and yes, it’s been all over the news, including one memorable interview with New Orleans mystery author, Julie Smith.  Smith says she quit writing for a long while after the storm, as she struggled to come to grips with what her city has become.  Now, mind you, I’ve never had the good fortune to go to New Orleans, although it’s definitely high on my list of want-tos, but I’ve got a thing for books about New Orleans, and here is one of my faves.

A couple of years ago, I devoured Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran. Claire DeWitt is an edgy private investigator who follows clues in her dreams, is a devotee of a mysterious dead French detective, and has a down and dirty approach to finding out what happened to a prominent New Orleans prosecutor, who disappeared during the Storm. She haunts the streets around the missing man’s home, she makes friends with teenaged delinquents and drug dealers. She listens in the missing man’s empty house, testing the wind for whispers of clues.  Her methods are fascinating.

Aside from great characters, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead gave me a glimpse of what really happened as the storm raged and the levies broke, and the people scrambled for safety.  It was the most genuine rendering of the disaster that I’ve seen, and gave me a new layer of understanding over my substrate of impressions and preconceptions.

I read a whole lot of books in my line of work, but this mystery juxtaposed a fresh style with a really dirty story, and has proven to be one has stayed with me in some surprising ways. Read it!


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