Maybe 4.5, but why quibble? When I read Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, I didn't know it would be a series. It hinted that it could be, but itMaybe 4.5, but why quibble? When I read Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, I didn't know it would be a series. It hinted that it could be, but it stands alone. Bohemian Highway could stand alone too. Your introduction to Claire and her backstory certainly adds more layers to your understanding of her in the second book, but Sara Gran manages to tell you what you need to know without it feeling like a "previously on -" montage. You'd still be able to love it. If you have read the first book, you'll look back on it, your understanding of the story deepening. Not changing, but revealing more layers. I've always read a lot of detective fiction. I've read several things that attempt to define the detective story in a way similar to Gran's, but none of them were particularly memorable. I wanted something like this series. Claire DeWitt is the detective I've been looking for.
When discussing the works of Sara Gran ( or Tana French), I tell people that it is doing them a disservice to think of them as genre books, but the fact that they are mysteries, or stories about detectives is not an accident. This isn't "just" a genre book, but the genre provides fertile ground for telling the story. It is a mystery, but I've always argued that most stories are mysteries at heart. The Claire DeWitt books reflect a similar philosophy. All the mysteries are connected. Cases are closed, but nothing is solved. From the manual of detection that has guided our heroine since her teens "The detective thinks he is investigating a murder or a missing girl but truly he is investigating something else altogether, something he cannot grasp hold of directly. . . . someday, perhaps many lifetimes from now, all will be explained and all mysteries will be solved. All knowledge will be free for the taking, including the biggest mystery of all - who we really are. Bur for now, each detective, alone in the woods, must take her clues, and solve her mysteries for herself"...more
This is less the story of a murder than it is an examination of the public's relationship with detective stories both fictional and non. It's well resThis is less the story of a murder than it is an examination of the public's relationship with detective stories both fictional and non. It's well researched, and pretty interesting if you're into that sort of thing, which I am. ...more
I love this series. Having grown up on Agatha Christie, I search and search for mystery books that satisfy me in the same way. There are many "cozy" mI love this series. Having grown up on Agatha Christie, I search and search for mystery books that satisfy me in the same way. There are many "cozy" mystery series, and most of them are not worth reading. This one has everything. I love the characters and the setting, but even more importantly, the mystery itself is well-crafted, and exactly how I like it. You have most of the information you need from the beginning, and you might figure some things out along the way, but the author is a master of misdirection. She gives you the information, but cleverly manipulates you so you don't realize the importance of a detail, or you forget about it, and then when it's important you realize you had this clue all along. Since the book has all that going for it, it doesn't necessarily need more. But oh, it has more! Issues of money, class, power and exploitation run through the story, placed so deftly and effortlessly that the mystery is enhanced rather than bogged down by its examination of complex social issues. The relationship between sisters Laura and Ruby reads true, capturing the seemingly contradictory qualities of simplicity and complexity that define what sisters are to each other. On top of all that, it has fascinating details about the fashion industry and some truly excellent swoon factor. I hate that I will have to wait for the next one, and almost wish I hadn't discovered this series until there were at least 6 of them for me to devour. ...more
I am rounding this up because my love of Flavia, Dogger, and yes, Aunt Felicity, is strong enough to give back the half star this book should have losI am rounding this up because my love of Flavia, Dogger, and yes, Aunt Felicity, is strong enough to give back the half star this book should have lost. It should have lost the half star in part because of some loose threads in the plot, and partly because due to inclement weather, Gladys the bicycle was only mentioned, not featured. Still though, I could spend all day happily reading as young Flavia rhapsodizes about poison. ...more
I wrote in a status update when I was about half through The Long Goodbye, that reading a Raymond Chandler book is like walking through a fog and watcI wrote in a status update when I was about half through The Long Goodbye, that reading a Raymond Chandler book is like walking through a fog and watching the landscape around you take shape as your eyes adjust. What you see at the beginning is only a hint of the overall structure of the story, and the picture gradually emerges as more details arrive. Because Chandler is such a master craftsman though, it doesn't emerge in a linear way, with one fact leading to another. It is more that the shape of things becomes clearer to you as you meet more characters and start to see the connections between the people, between the past and the present and all the possible futures. Marlowe narrates action, but he rarely lets you inside his head. He tells you what he does, but not what he thinks. He tells you what other people do and say, but doesn't tell you much of what he thinks about it, or what he speculates is behind a person's words or actions. He misses almost nothing, but keeps his conclusions to himself until he thinks the time is right to speak. Raymond Chandler is one of the greats. His sentences are spare, elegant, and effective. Marlowe is a tough guy, and a self-described romantic. By romantic, he does not mean flowers and candy and sweet words. Well, rarely sweet words. I've been trying to put my finger on what quality of his exactly causes him to describe himself that way. I think it is in his adherence to his own rules, the sense of duty he feels towards people to whom he knows he doesn't owe anything. It is in his preference for natural justice over that of the law ("The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer.") His tendency to keep going even when common sense (and a colorful cast of thugs and tycoons and lawyers) warn him off. The prose is occasionally romantic in its descriptions. For example, from Marlowe's first description of Eileen Wade: "She was unclassifiable, as remote and clear as mountain water, as elusive as its color." However, it is the wry, understated descriptions of scenes and people that fill most of the book. With a light touch of sardonic humor, and a clear eye, Marlowe sees straight to the heart of things most of the time, even when it comes to women, but that doesn't stop him from falling for people, romantically or otherwise. He doesn't go into his feelings, but the reader gets hints. Talking about a chess problem he has decided to work on one evening "Once in a long while when I feel mean enough I set it out and look for a new way to solve it. It's a nice quiet way to go crazy. You don't even scream, but you come awfully close." What struck me rereading this after maybe 20 years, is how on the nose Chandler's conception of the system remains. Speaking of big business, organized crime, petty crime, drugs, sex, government, democracy, bureaucracy, military service, alcoholism, human nature and the nature of society, he cuts through abstraction and tells you what it's about and he's right. No BS, no real judgment, just how things are. And the dialogue, oh the dialogue! "He don't run the police department," Green said. "He admits it. Doesn't even buy commissioners or D.A.'s, he said. They just kind of curl up in his lap when he's having a doze." I could go on, the entire book is beautifully quotable, but instead I will just recommend that you spend some time walking through the lightening fog with one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Many say the Long Goodbye is Chandler's masterpiece, and I would agree. Your "read" shelf is incomplete without it. ...more
Sara Gran is becoming one of my favorite writers, and this little gem is my favorite of her books so far. It was close enough to perfect that I roundeSara Gran is becoming one of my favorite writers, and this little gem is my favorite of her books so far. It was close enough to perfect that I rounded it up to 5 stars despite finding the ending a little abrupt and confusing. I think I sorted out the details, but I had to stop and think it through for a while. This isn't really a problem with the book. It's common in noir for the protagonist to give you slightly less information than you need, and the circumspection of the narrator adds to the mist that seems to float through this sort of book. If Raymond Chandler wrote about New York, if Raymond Chandler was a woman, this is the sort of book he would have given us, and his influence is clear in the language and the structure. I can see Gran working her way towards the kind of story she tells in Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, a book I gave one less star than this one though I loved it too. That book is more ambitious than this one, and the simplicity of Dope allows it to be perfect. I think it was Edward Albee who said his best play was probably whichever one was shortest because there would be the fewest mistakes in it. Dope is a fairly short book, with no mistakes that I could see. Gorgeous writing, excellent story and pacing, a main character who I bought into completely, a glimpse into Hell's Kitchen in 1950, I fell in love with this novel and will be rereading it probably several times. Love. ...more
A lot of people don't seem to like this as much as her previous books. I do think Scorcher Kennedy is harder to immediately relate to, but for me, thaA lot of people don't seem to like this as much as her previous books. I do think Scorcher Kennedy is harder to immediately relate to, but for me, that was an added layer of beauty. The first crack in my heart was when he referred to Frank Mackey (star of the previous book) as his "friend". It just killed me. Poor Scorcher, he doesn't really have any friends. Never had a real friend, never could have a real friend, and his quiet hunger for human connection ripped right through me, slowly slowly slowly, but effectively. I find myself thinking about this book frequently, no less so than Tana French's 3 other outstanding novels. Though it is no accident that her stories center around murders and police detectives, they are not procedurals. They are more character studies than anything else though giving them that name similarly limits them. There is no one like Tana French out there that I have found, and I look forward to reading and re-reading her books for the rest of my life. This one I've only read once so far, but the others I've read twice each and will re-read again regularly. They join the ranks of my all-time favorite books because every time I read them, they reveal something new to me, some layer, some gesture that I didn't pay attention to the last time, some line of dialogue that stabs me in a slightly different place than last time. These books leave scar tissue, and they are scars I am proud to carry. ...more
Maybe more like 4.5 stars. I really loved this book. If I am still thinking about bits of it 2 weeks from now, I might upgrade to 5 stars. The idea thMaybe more like 4.5 stars. I really loved this book. If I am still thinking about bits of it 2 weeks from now, I might upgrade to 5 stars. The idea that "everyone has a double" is problematic for me, but the story and the writing were so good that I didn't worry about it once I started reading. If I needed to just accept that idea to believe in this story, that was fine with me. I loved the first book in this series, and this one was even better. Tana French has the rare gift of creating intricately plotted mysteries that could be just as easily viewed as character studies. Her books are haunting, deep and wonderful.
Edited to add: I upgraded this to 5 stars after reading the next in the series, which I really loved, but not quite on this level. I thought about it, and decided that pure genre snobbery had denied this book the 5th star. Was there anything that could have been improved about this book? No, I don't think so. Am I still hearing passages echo in my head? Yes. 5 stars....more
**spoiler alert** I liked it, but it was disappointing. Several things felt unresolved and I hate it when the killer turns out to be someone the detec**spoiler alert** I liked it, but it was disappointing. Several things felt unresolved and I hate it when the killer turns out to be someone the detectives never even interviewed, that we as an audience have not met. I really hate that! Maybe the guy was at least casually mentioned, but the solution felt cheap and unsatisfying. And what was the deal with the secretary? I admit to skimming a bit towards the end, but I don't remember anything that would explain why she was invested to such a degree that she would assault someone to not be caught paper shredding, in itself not that suspicious. And she was saying she had the boy and begging that guy to help her? Unresolved. And the stuff with the secret society just turned out to be typical mean girl stuff. Maybe that was the point, but it could have been more, I think, and more interesting. I also found Claire's motivations to be less than adequate. What, she was going to prove hypocrisy by the evidence that a teenage boy got her pregnant? So what. Even if he is the headmaster's son, the knowledge that he has been sexually active would hardly surprise anyone. And it was revenge because he broke up with her mom 20 years ago? I guess she blames him for her unstable parenting situation in some way, but even for an angry teenager the logic is muddled to the point of absurdity. I did overall like it, mostly. Will give the author a 2nd chance because I am always looking for good mystery books, and not finding them....more
Ignore the typical YA horror that is the cover, please. I'm not very far into this yet, but I can tell that it is so much better than this ridiculousIgnore the typical YA horror that is the cover, please. I'm not very far into this yet, but I can tell that it is so much better than this ridiculous emo nonsense. The main character would, in no way, be guilty of that eye makeup or that choker. Seriously people. Who makes these decisions? Is it some horrid committee? This probably had to be approved by at least 3 people to go forward, and all of them should be sent to a reprogramming camp.
Well, now that that is out of the way, I did actually read the book, despite the cover, and I am so glad I did. I loved the main character, I loved the world of the book, and I am a sucker for anything with twins in it, especially identical twins. All the characters, from Briony and her sister Rose, to her love interest Eldric (squee! I love you, Eldric!) to the Chime Child herself were well drawn, not slipping into little YA boxes as so often happens. The magical world of this book comprises seemingly endless categories of Old Ones, witches, brownies, and all kinds of different swamp creatures, and blessedly, no vampires. I still love a good vampire story, despite everything, but it was refreshing to have vampires only mentioned once, as creatures who live in the cities. I am particularly impressed with the pacing of the story and the way the answer to the mystery unfolds. This isn't ONLY a mystery book, but it is a mystery. Who killed Stepmother? Is Rose as "simple" as people say? What happened to make Rose that way? That aspect of the story was extremely well plotted. Unreliable narration, misdirection, careful placement of information serving to hint, to suggest, to drive you a little bit crazy. The reveal was satisfying, and I loved the way the mystery and its solution work in the larger context of stories, telling stories, retelling stories, different versions of stories, a thematic thread that stitches all the story lines together.
I enjoyed getting to know Rose over the course of the book. I think it is interesting how writers creating period pieces such as this use modern science. I would love to know if the author intended Rose as a moderate-high functioning girl with autism, or if that is just me. I put this under spoilers, because we all know that no one develops autism from a blow to the head, so I think Rose was always a clue to the mystery in this, as well as other ways. She is remarkably intelligent, has a perfect eye for color and is very concerned with things "matching". She has endless patience for the things she likes doing, and tends to scream and scream when her senses are overwhelmed. This sounds like autism to me....more
**spoiler alert** I spent large chunks of this book (mostly in the last third or so) wanting to slap the narrator, then remembering all the reasons he**spoiler alert** I spent large chunks of this book (mostly in the last third or so) wanting to slap the narrator, then remembering all the reasons he is the way he is, and having sympathy for him while still wanting to slap him. At some point I realized that my frustration with him was a sign of how deeply I was immersed in this novel. In fact, I was consumed by this book, and have the next two in the series on hold at the library. The characters were well drawn, the story is fascinating, the plot is well paced. ***SPOILER ALERT*******
One of the mysteries in the book never gets solved, and while this was hard to accept, I think it was a better choice than putting a bow around and it and gifting it to the reader. More realistic. The whole book tore me up, but I loved it. ...more
I tend to rate things within their own genre rather than compared to all the great books of the world. After all, if Nabokov gets five stars, very fewI tend to rate things within their own genre rather than compared to all the great books of the world. After all, if Nabokov gets five stars, very few writers are equal to Nabokov, and "not being Nabokov" seems like an unfair reason to take a star from someone. Christa Faust is a master of this particular kind of book, and both this and the first in the series, Money Shot are damn near perfect. Gritty, dark, and hard-hitting, with plenty of action and a great plot, these books are traditional noir style in (mostly) conventional (if modernized) noir settings but with a non-traditional protagonist. Former porn actress Angel Dare may get put through the ringer, but she's no victim. Her voice and her story ring true without losing the delightful pulpy feel one wants from a book like this. Highly recommend. ...more