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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 June 2011
If you like your crime fiction, or heck, just your regular fiction, a little offbeat and dark -- this is well worth trying. The titular Claire is the world's foremost private detective and we meet her in 2007 New Orleans at the start of a new case. The nephew of a much-liked prosecutor has hired her to find out what happened to his uncle, who went missing during the post-Katrina flooding. The case is a bit of an uneasy homecoming for Claire -- she used to live in New Orleans, but left following the murder of her mentor several years ago.

Claire is a compelling, but very damaged protagonist, and definitely not your typical fictional detective. Just to give a sense of her, there's a brief throwaway line in the first third of of the book in which she mentions off-handedly that she's shot four people, killed two -- "none in self-defense." No further explanation given (nor necessary). She's also a devotee of the mysterious French detective Silette and his enigmatic treatise "Detection". She uses the I-Ching, takes whatever narcotics are at hand, follows hunches based on dreams, lies, cheats, steals, and is generally unstable.

The book tacks back and forth between Claire's investigation and glimpses into her messy past. Unlike most conventional crime stories, it's hard to tell what's relevant to the investigation and what isn't. There's a fair amount of time spent detailing her girlhood friendship with two other girls in New York, and the mysterious disappearance of one of them when they were teenagers some twenty years ago -- and you'll have to read to the end to learn if this have anything to do with the main plotline. Missing people are a recurring theme in the book, and creates a core of sorrow to the story.

The book also has a lot to say and show about post-Katrina New Orleans. Both the city and Claire are suffering from what might be considered post-traumatic stress disorder, and the pain of this contrasts with the deadpan prose and dialogue. The author lived through the floods, and the book doesn't shirk from grim and heartrending descriptions of what happened during and after the flooding. It's not a happy book, but it is one well worth reading by anyone with an interest in New Orleans, or if you like interesting female protagonists.
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I love a good police procedural - I like the linearity and logic and the whodunit guessing. This is not anything like that. I see people describe it as metaphysical. Well I don't have a good grasp of what that means so I'll just describe what I read. It is the story of a strange woman detective looking into the disappearance of a DA in post Katrina New Orleans. The descriptions of New Orleans and the survivors are very atmospheric and haunting. The actual detecting is very mystical. Claire sees signs/clues everywhere, she uses her dreams to open up new lines of enquiry, she casts the I-Ching to help her move forward and most of all she relies on a rather vague, mystical philosophy of detection book to guide her actions. I must admit I glossed over a lot that as I was too interested in the plot to ponder on the characters solving their own mysteries. There is a good plot in there and it is compulsive but for me the was too much extraneous philosophy.
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on 30 October 2011
A weird and wonderful book. The blurbs and cover seem to imply that this will be a standard genre detective story,set in New Orleans, and while it is certainly worth reading for the atmospheric descriptions of post-Katrina New Orleans, this is most emphatically not standard generic fare. I have a particular liking for off-beat, faintly fantastical stories that use the trappings of a detective story to push the boundaries and go beyond both "realism" and genre. I don't know quite how to classify this non-generic genre (maybe because it defies classification) but many years ago I heard someone refer to one of Colin Wilson's novels as a "metaphysical mystery" and ever since that has been my personal tag for this kind of book. Sara Gran now joins authors Paul Auster, M. John Harrison and Kelly Link in my personal pantheon of favourites. I was also blown away by her brilliant psychological horror novel, "Come Closer.") So, if you like their books (and/or Charles Williams, G.C. Chesterton, Colin Wilson, Jeff VanderMeer) definitely add this one to your shopping cart.
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on 20 February 2015
Although this type of crime novel is not really to my taste, I found it surprisingly engrossing. The private investigator, Claire Dewitt, has been tasked with finding the Asst District Attorney, Vic Willing, who has been missing for some time. One year on New Orleans is still suffering from the aftermath of the storm and people are suffering from lack of safe housing and basics like food and other necessities. Claire gets together with the local "bad" boys in her quest and this has plenty of frightening repercussions.

This novel is Sara Gran's debut and I am going to look out for follow-ons.
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on 5 February 2012
Loved this book - the central character is a brilliant construction - sharp, tough, funny, flawed, original. All the Silette stuff is totally convincing. The New Orleans setting is vivid and makes for the perfect backdrop to the plot. Can't wait for the next one.
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on 23 April 2012
I had already been aware of Sara Grans' work after very favourable reviews of previous novels Dope & Come Closer but this is the first time I've picked up one of her books. So, so glad I did as well. Drawn in by Alafair Burkes' describing Claire DeWitt as a cross between Nancy Drew and Sid Vicious (brilliant!)it's one of those books where you fall in love with the narrators voice straight away. Whether describing a New Orleans still on it's knees after Hurricane Katrina or how the Police department works (or doesn't) in relation to those struggling to survive in the wake of devastating circumstances it is never less than engaging.

There are so many layers to this book that it is probably best left to readers to discover its charms for themselves. Everyone will get something different from it and will enjoy a good, solid mystery into the bargain, as well. Beautiful
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on 13 November 2013
The first in a series of Private Eye books featuring Claire DeWitt, this is a startling, fresh and, dare I say it, unputdownable mystery/detective story. Next to Claire, the main character is the city of New Orleans after the deluge of Hurricane Katrina. Gran makes the city come alive as DeWitt unravels the killing of a DA. Her fictional advisers are the late Silette, PI and author of "Detection", a zen-like guide to soving mysteries, and Constance, her mentor and Silette's lover as well.
Sort of a cross between Robert Parker and Tom Robbins, the nearest similar writer I can think of is Carl Hiaasen, but Gran is a thoroughly individual writer and must be judged on her own considerable talents. Out of 5 stars I give her 6.
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on 4 July 2014
Claire DeWitt, a woman who solves cases using, dreams, signs and the I-ching amongst more down to earth methods. The story however is based in a down and dirty post Katrina New Orleans.

I loved her book Dope, although it was almost unremittingly bleak. There is certainly darkness in this story but also a few crumbs of humanity and hope.

I look forward to the next book and finding out a bit more about Claire DeWitt. A hard drinking, drug using and totally different kind of detective.
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on 22 August 2013
The main character in this seems to have been trained by a cross between Miss Marple and a clairvoyant . How she managed to function on industrial quantities of booze and illegal drugs and still avoid getting bumped off is the real mystery. I still enjoyed it strange to say.
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on 26 May 2015
Really enjoyed this. Often detective novels can be grim affairs, this one manages to combine dark deeds with a fresh perspective to provide an invigorating read.
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