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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Claire DeWitt mysteries #1)

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3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  3,278 ratings  ·  732 reviews
Sara Gran has written a novel about an unprecedented private investigator named Claire DeWitt. Destiny, it seems, has chosen Claire to be a detective, planting a copy of the enigmatic book Détection in her path as a teenager. Claire has grabbed this destiny with both hands but fate has been cruel. Twenty years later detection is her religion and Détection is her Bible.

Now...more
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published June 2nd 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published May 24th 2011)
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Curious George by H.A. ReyHow Not to Murder Your Grumpy by Carol E. WyerThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonWatchmen by Alan MooreOne Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
Yellowest Books Ever
57th out of 801 books — 385 voters
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara GranThe Sentry by Robert CraisCrooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom FranklinHeadstone by Ken BruenFeast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke
Bast Books of 2011
1st out of 16 books — 10 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
’There are no innocent victims’, wrote Jacques Silette. ‘The victim selects his role as carefully and unconsciously as the policeman, the detective, the client, or the villain. Each chooses his role and then forgets this, sometimes for many lifetimes, until one comes along who can remind him. This time you may be the villain or the victim. The next time your roles may switch.
It is only a role. Try to remember.’


Claire DeWitt has been enticed back to her former stomping grounds in New Orleans to i...more
Dan Schwent
When prosecutor Vic Willing goes missing in post-Katrina New Orleans, Claire DeWitt comes to town to find out who killed him. Can she put her personal demons aside long enough to find out?

This is the sixth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

This is one of those books that's going to be really hard to do justice to in a review.

Claire DeWitt is the grea...more
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]
I was a little afraid to re-read this book, because the first time through was so absolutely stunning, it was as if it was written for me. As my first review did not do justice to its wonderful combination of mystery, introspection, and setting, I'm setting out to rectify it.

Claire DeWitt is a detective, willing to use all means necessary--including hallucinogenic dreams, the I Ching and fingerprint analysis--to solve her cases. She knows ultimately she will be solving the case for herself, beca...more
Trudi

How do I love a book? Let me count the ways.

1. Setting: Post-Katrina New Orleans. Swampy, sensual, tragic, dangerous. A complete immersion into the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a damaged and depressed city, betrayed and forgotten, seeking its redemption.

2. Heroine: Kick-ass, ruthless, complicated, haunted. Claire DeWitt is much like the city of New Orleans itself: damaged and dangerous, tragic and seeking redemption. Neither needs nor desires your pity or understanding.

3. Language: Hard...more
Jenn(ifer)
I have to admit it, I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel. Honestly, it's the first time I picked up something from the "mystery" section of the library. And certainly the first time I read something endorsed by Sue Grafton (cough).

As far as mysteries go,the best thing about this one was the lack of predictability. I mean, I guess I should have seen the ending coming in retrospect, but I didn't. At all. So kudos to you, Gran, for keeping me on my toes and holding my interest.

I m...more
Andrew Neal
I'm sure there are people who would tell you that this book is about a grown up girl detective who uses drugs and esoteric techniques to solve the mysteries no one else wants solved, but I'd say it's about the way people, places, and events are connected in surprising and often absurd ways.

There was a wonderful balance between the protagonist's depression and the background presence of humanistic compassion, which never strayed anywhere near the realm of preachiness. There was also a perfect bal...more
James Thane
This is the most inventive and unconventional crime novel I've read in years--a meditation on the nature of mystery as much as it is a "mystery" novel.

Claire Dewitt is a student of the famous French detective Jacques Silette, has been mentored by one of Silette's protoges, and is now herself the world's greatest detective. Picture Nancy Drew by way of Hunter S. Thompson.

After an absence of ten years, Claire is called back to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to solve the disappearanc...more
Sue
Sep 23, 2013 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery lovers who want something different
Shelves: mystery, kindle, read-2013
An existential mystery! Who'd have thought it would have it's own manual? Claire Dewitt learned at the feet of an apparent master who used the manual in teaching her students the way of living as well as the ways of detecting. As Claire tells us:


"Silette wrote one book, Detection, in 1959. Jaques Silette
was a genius. So I thought. So a few thousand others around
the world thought too." (loc 344)


This was the man who created her bible, the book that gave meaning to her life, the very frazzled l...more
Robert Dunbar
I've been an avid fan of Sara Gran's work since Come Closer. Her books are difficult to categorize, like the works of so many of my favorite authors. Her new one is a sort of existential-detective-literary-noir with heavy supernatural (or at least occult) overtones. God help the book store clerk who has to figure out where to shelf it. It's also brilliant, delightful, delicious, and an absolute joy to read, full of the most unexpected cadences and rhythms, rife with surprising plot twists, witty...more
David
Jul 30, 2014 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Detectives who consult the I Ching, missing lawyers with parrots
Claire DeWitt is the protege of Constance Darling, the "greatest detective in the world." Using tea leaves, I Ching, home-brewed philosophy, and a book by a French detective named Jacques Silette, studying under Darling was like apprenticing as a wizard. Then Constance Darling died, leaving Claire as her heir to the title of greatest detective in the world.

It's hard to say how tongue-in-cheek Claire is being when she calls herself that, but she states it in a flat, no-nonsense manner that makes...more
LJ
First Sentence: “It’s my uncle,” the man said on the phone.

Claire DeWitt advertises herself as the world’s greatest private investigator. As such, she accepts a case in recent post-Katrina New Orleans. Her client is the nephew of Vic Willing. The case is to find out what happened to this the city’s wealthy district attorney who disappeared during the flooding after the hurricane.

Every now and then, an author comes along with a voice and style that it is almost impossible to describe, quantify, o...more
Ed
Sep 29, 2011 Ed rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of offbeat private investigator novels
Recommended to Ed by: browsing library new books
It's refreshing to run across an offbeat, stylish, and sparky private eye novel like City of the Dead is. Claire DeWitt arrives in New Orleans where she trained to be a private investigator years ago to search for a local attorney who disappeared while Hurricane Katrina slammed the city. Claire brings along her own baggage. She's certainly no angel, liking her booze and dope. But she possesses a good heart, a relentless curiosity, and a zenlike devotion to her trade. She's also a likeable protag...more
Shomeret
This is the most sympathetic mentally unstable detective that I've encountered since Bo Bradley, the bi-polar child protective services worker created by Abigail Padgett. Bo Bradley would go off her medication in order to access the flashes of intuitive insight she needed to solve her cases. Unfortunately, this would make some of her actions and decisions erratic, and she would get into trouble with her superiors. Claire DeWitt isn't on prescription medication but she does use certain uncontroll...more
Lea



3.5 Stars . . .

But I may change that after I've had time to think about it for a while . . .

This is beautifully written, and a very fast read -- lots of tiny chapters, which makes it easy to work through if you don't have a lot of time.

I saw so many reviewers that I really respect giving this book great reviews, and I have to say that, even though I didn't have the same reaction, I don't disagree with them. Claire DeWitt is a very intriguing character, and the story is fast paced and interesting...more
Stephanie
Hmmm... I am really stumped on what to say about this book. I really liked it, it was a real page-turner, but I am at a loss when it comes to the words to describe what it is about. Well, basically it's about a woman who is a detective but she has studied under the school of Jacques Silette, and the mode of detection is very mystical and spiritual, and thus difficult for me to describe as I have little experience of either of those things.

Claire DeWitt is a the detective. Recovering from a recen...more
Adam
Holy crap is this book good. I don't really even have the words for it.
It is worthy entrant into the Canon on mystery novels (such as it is.)

I have read so many god-damned books where the author is declared to be a worthy successor to
chandler or hammett, and with the exception of robert b. parker at his pinnacle, or robert crais, at his pinnacle,
I have always been disapointed.*

And this book wasn't even advertised as the worthy successor to hammett. But oh my is it ever.

The novel is so very...more
Matt Schiariti
I loved Come Closer and Dope...as such I was pretty excited to read the latest from Sara Gran expecting something smart, witty, dark and fun to read...I was pretty disappointed...

Clair DeWitt...'the World's Greatest Detective'....is tasked with a case of finding out about the death of a New Orleans district attorney by his nephew. This happened post-Katrina so naturally that makes things complex from the beginning; a city and its people devastated, nobody trustful of anybody from the outside...W...more
Terina
I waited a few days to review thinking my opinion would change. It didn't. The concept is interesting - a mystical private investigator who is the best in the world and has her own personal unsolved mystery. I just couldn't get past all the coincidences that weren't explained by the resolution. She happened to be in NY on 9/11 so she could answer someone's question about it. She happened to pick up a dirty business card. She happened to be in the right neighborhood, turn the right corner. I also...more
Sara Juno
I think this is a very interesting book but for some reason I didn't find it very engaging. The primary character, Claire de Witt, is great and her thoughts, actions and dialogue are insightful, funny and wonderfully politically incorrect. I want to know more about her so even though I didn't love this book, I plan to read the next novel in this series when it comes out. I enjoyed New Orleans as the setting. I enjoyed the quirkyness of Claire de Witt's detective methodology based on obscure meta...more
Kevin
I'm not typically in the habit of picking up mysteries (says the guy who has Sherlock Holmes in his currently-reading list) but I heard that this one was set in New Orleans so I decided to give it a go. By page four I said, "I GET IT ALREADY IT IS SET IN NEW ORLEANS."

okay so it turns out that was an overreaction but at the time I felt like Gran was trying to find every way possible to say, "They are on a FAMOUS STREET in NEW ORLEANS and now they are visiting a FAMOUS BAR in NEW ORLEANS and now s...more
Timothy Dalton
So for this book, I listened to the audio version which is not something I normally do. I have a few upsets with this book. When I say a few, I mean probably ten. First of all the main character Claire Dewitt isn’t a badass at all, but the story attempts to write her as such. One scene in particular she speaks of walking upon several gang-banger guys who are armed to the teeth, and in the author’s words “with enough to take on Fallujah”. The main character says, “they were tough, but I was tough...more
Zora
I think this novel might just be a work of genius.

Is the protagonist/narrator a hard-boiled PI with some mystical abilities, Chandler doused in Taoism? Or is she a schizophrenic, self-medicated with street drugs, who has invented half of what she tells us? I don't know…and I like that I don't know.

Claire DeWitt moves through the underworld of New Orleans, just after Katrina, to find a missing ADA. She uses, in her detection, old frienemies, new acquaintances, street people, Mardi Gras "Indians,"...more
Nicky
Ever been to New Orleans? Well, don’t go. Ever. That city turns nice kids into murderers. Fathers of the Year into pedophiles. Homecoming queens into crack whores. The family dog into a shithouse rat. There. Now you don’t have to read the book.

Claire is ballsy and I’d kind of love to get drinks with her, but when it comes to New Orleans, she has only one thing to say. We get it. New Orleans is the Pit of Despair. Don’t even think about trying to escape. The chains are far too thick. But aside f...more
Rosana
I am struggling on how to rate this book. It has all the elements of the average mystery book: a hard core detective with struggles of her own, a dislikeable victim that might have deserved his ending, and a parade of small interesting characters that give the book its true colour. The biggest selling premises of this series, however, is that Claire DeWitt, the main detective, uses unconventional methods: she consults the IChing, pay attention to omens, and “senses” dangers. The thing is, it got...more
Debra
Apr 12, 2013 Debra rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Debra by: Ann
A very unconventional detective story with well-developed flawed characters. The glimpse into post-Katrina New Orleans is amazing. The plot was gripping and I read this one at break-neck speed. A must-read for mystery readers.
Jaylia3
No one really wants their mysteries solved. That’s what Claire DeWitt, the world’s greatest private investigator, believes. Instead, solving mysteries is a quest or an almost holy compulsion towards the truth for the true detective. The clients already know the resolution, but they don’t want to. They hire a detective to prove that that their mystery cannot be solved.

Claire DeWitt is a jambalaya-like mixture of a character. A hard-headed, soft-hearted, rapier tongued, self-proclaimed crazy woman...more
Charlie
This is a complex story that addresses post-traumatic stress disorder in urban areas and draws an interesting parallel between natural disaster and war. There is an investigation going on here, but that is secondary to the human depravity, sadness and hopelessness of the post Katrina culture. The mystery is not necessarily in the mystery (case), but in understanding human nature in general. Thematically, every part is expertly crafted, but where the reading becomes difficult (for me) is in the h...more
Tammy
Once every now and then, I stumble upon an author who not only writes beautiful stories but also does so with humanity. Sara Gran is my favorite find this year. I first read Come Closer and gave it 5 stars. More literary than horror but still spooky and chilling. I couldn't really articulate why I was so crazy about the book or why I was so taken with Ms. Gran.

I am now 2/3 through City of the Dead and have figured it out. Her novels are unusual, a bit bizarre, with intriguing characters. Just wh...more
Ed Eleazer
I have read several mystery novels over the past few weeks, and this is by far the best. It's major strengths are as follows: (1) the sense of place and its atmosphere are drawn flawlessly. The street scenes, the descriptions of the Katrina rescue efforts are so well depicted that I had a nightmare set in New Orleans the night I completed my reading. (2) Ms. Gran's style is perfectly suited to the subject matter. Her sentences are tightly constructed, almost Hemingway-esque, and each word seems...more
J
This was a fast read. What do people even mean by that? Do they mean it had only a few pages? Short chapters? Easy contents? That is was suspenseful? That they stayed up too late reading it, and read it off and on the next day until it was done? I stayed up too late reading it, and wound up reading it off and on all day until I got to the end. That's what I mean this time by "a fast read."

Claire DeWitt has a lot of depth, even if she is pretty obnoxious. She's not all that obnoxious, though; she...more
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“It doesn't matter what people want to hear. It doesn't matter if people like you. It doesn't matter if the whole world thinks you're crazy. It doesn't matter whose heart you break. What matters is the truth.” 12 likes
“Be grateful for every scar life inflicts on you. Where we’re unhurt is where we are false. Where we are wounded and healed is where our real self gets to show itself. That’s where you get to show who you really are” 7 likes
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