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The Feral Detective

3.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,443 ratings  ·  498 reviews
Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer in the desert outside of Los Angeles. She's on a quest to find her friend's missing daughter, Arabella, and hears that Heist is preternaturally good at finding people who don't want to be found. A loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, Heist has a laconic, enigmatic nature that intrigues the sarcastic ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Ecco
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Average rating 3.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,443 ratings  ·  498 reviews

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Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Letham fans who don't care about voice issues
Mostly, this book makes me sad.

Should you read it?

Only after you read all that other stuff.


(view spoiler) ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
When I first saw the title The Feral Detective I imagined Humphrey Bogart as a werewolf. I guess if I want that book I’ll have to write it myself.

Phoebe Siegler is a lady from New York who quits her media job after the election of 2016. To distract herself from thinking about the living nightmare that America is about to become she heads west to California looking for the daughter of a friend of hers who dropped out of a school and hasn’t been in touch with her mother. The trail leads to the
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american
On the Wild Edge

A somewhat vacuous, somewhat lascivious thirty something wannabe journalist named Phoebe, goes adventuring in the Inland Empire of California, that endless conurbation east of Los Angeles along the oddly named Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway. Her trip is an encounter with the void that is at the heart of her Conradian search for the missing daughter of a friend. Her companion and guide is Heist, the eponymous detective who, although distracted with nursing an o
Ron Charles
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: apocalyptic
“The Feral Detective” is a brilliant noir title — right down to its misdirection. Charles Heist, the mysterious man at the center of Jonathan Lethem’s new novel, is a detective of sorts, but he isn’t feral. He’s Clint Eastwood-cool, all self-contained and aloof, capable of silencing a room with a glance. His native wildness hasn’t been domesticated so much as chained. He also keeps a live opossum in his office, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The good news is that Lethem is back in t
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
An entertaining read but felt the characters and scenarios felt contrived. When a male author writes in the voice of a female protagonist I try to keep that out of my mind and to not read the book through that lens, to be open to the character's and author's voices. But throughout this book I couldn't help but have that awareness of Phoebe being a woman written by a man. The intermittent insertion of the 2016 election into her internal narrative/journey took me further outside of the story and o ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I generally love Jonathan Lethem: Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude are two of my most favorite books. I also really, really liked Dissident Gardens. So I hoped to like this in the same way. Which I didn't. But it may have suffered from the comparison.

Phoebe Siegler is a New York City girl who has had it with the life of an editorial assistant/intellectual. She heads west to Los Angeles to locate the disappeared daughter of her best friend. She has been led to Charlie
Dec 05, 2018 added it
This book had some very good dogs.
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There was a stretch of time that opening a Jonathan Lethem book was akin to discovering a new room inside my own brain. Perhaps this was in part due to shared geography (Oakland/Berkeley/Bay Area, Brooklyn), though just as much of his approach of bridging genres or layering the fantastical on top of our realities. (My mind is racing through so many of his worlds including the one where the poorest people live in their cars caught in an infinite traffic jam or that love triangle with the man, the ...more
Bill Berger
May 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
What to make of this novel ? I've enjoyed all the previous Lethem books but this one leaves me cold, bored and asking whatever was he thinking.
Starting out as a mystery of sorts, it soon regressed into a sort of love story. I finished it but not sure why.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
I am trying to be nice, but just didn't like this book. From the political commentary, to the Rabbits and Bears, it seemed more like a child's book, except for the sex, which made the female lead character look like a school girl with a crush. Started like a detective noir, but ended with a thud.
Tonstant Weader
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Even some 20 years after reading “Motherless Brooklyn” I can still remember the enchantment of reading it. Since then I have been a devoted Jonathan Letham reader. Despite being in the midst of a couple other books, I dropped everything to read The Feral Detective. I was more excited than usual because he was returning to the detective genre.

When Arabella, the daughter of Phoebe’s best friend, goes missing soon after Leonard Cohen’s death and the 2016 election, Phoebe, who is at loos
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highest recommendation for this fever dream of a novel. Any purchase or perspective on the sense of unreality felt after the election of 2016, from the shock that millions of American adults were willing to trade the ideals of democracy for putting themselves First requires the deep dive this novel offers.

“Television had elected itself, I figured. It could watch itself too, for all I cared. I read my book.”

“I didn’t want to have to rescue myself” is a sentiment among many I share
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jonathan Lethem enthusiasts
Recommended to Still by: I'm a J. Lethem enthusiast
I enjoyed this novel even if it's received its share of so-so reviews from a number of hot shot professional critics.

Lots of post-Trump election angst-riddled rants delivered in a first person narrative by a character of the female persuasion - a Brooklynite who quits her entry-level journalist gig in an act of dumb-ass defiance and vacuous protest against the outcome of the 2016 election.
We have mostly all suffered through these days o'Trump, taking them one outrageous day at
Don Gorman
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
(3 1/2). I can't quite put my finger on what really tickled my fancy about this book. Could it be that Phoebe is such a cool, sort of protagonist? Is it that Charles Heist is almost an anti-protagonist, the ultimate mystery man? Is it the setting in a part of the California desert that I am very familiar with? It is the 60's cult thing going on that hits my imagination? is it the anti-Trump fervor that drives Phoebe? Probably some of all of this, but Lethem's style is so easy to read and this bo ...more
Paula Lyle
Dec 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
As I read this I kept finding that my face was twisted into an expression of WTF. I just could not figure out why anyone was doing what they were doing. I didn't really like or dislike these people, I just didn't get them. Except for the feelings of loss, anger and astonishment at the election results of 2016, that I totally understood.
Nov 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
I only read 1/3 of the book. I had to give it up because I disliked the characters so much, and the plot was icky, icky, icky.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Maybe a little higher than 2 but not a 3 for me. Interesting plot at times but I'm not a fan of men writing novels that are narrated by women. Women do it so much better, IMHO. Also, didn't bond with any of the characters, except for maybe the dogs.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book started out as intriguing and fun, also quirky and a bit different.

However I just couldn't relate to the protagonist Phoebe. I found her really annoying and couldn't see why there was any chemistry between her and Charles Heist.

I did complete it but it was really hard work :(
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Really, really out there. Not quite sure if I absorbed everything. I loved the characters of Phoebe and Heist. Lethem has a gift for creating unique characters.
Sebastien Castell
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Have you ever watched someone perform an amazing feat only to then wonder why on earth they'd choose to do it? I'm talking about the kid on YouTube who successfully juggles fifteen cereal boxes in the air, somehow managing to get a few bits from each one in his mouth, spits them up into a bowl and then shows you a perfectly-arranged mixture of fifteen different cereal brands? Or the guy who shows up on a local TV morning show and can recite the entire works of Tolstoy backwards in German while o ...more
Justin Tappan
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a tough one to rank.

I picked this book up because of a stream of glowing reviews. Couple that with a plot revolving around fringe weirdos in the Mojave and how could I say no? It seemed to tick all my boxes.

I've never read Lethem before. He's a great writer who can really put together a sentence. His plotting was tight. His descriptions vivid. The core of this book was solid.


The detective of the title isn't the main character here. W
Angus McKeogh
Apr 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Unfortunately I’d added this book to my library hold list before consulting a close friend of mine and finding out his opinion of the book was that it was awful. Luckily I didn’t buy it based on this information, and instead found that it was auto checked out for me on my library hold some months later. Needless to say, he was correct. This was a real piece of shit. Enough said.
Joshua Van Dereck
May 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I first came across Jonathan Lethem in Best American Short Stories, where I fell in love with The King of Sentences. Wildly inspired, I followed him across the pages of Motherless Brooklyn, which thrilled me through and through. Subsequently, I limped along with As She Climbed Across the Table and How We Got Insipid. Finally, I have stumbled and crumpled to a halt in the pages of The Feral Detective, which seems to twist Lethem's strengths into flaws and flatten the depth and humor of his worldv ...more
Sally Anne
This book is a hot mess, but not without its value and pleasure.
The depiction of that part of Southern California includes some good observation of the area.
The narrator, a female, is utterly unbelievable, but having Zosia Mamet read it made it tolerable if not compelling.
There are annoying, sloppy errors in the book, such as having Phoebe take the red-eye from New York to Los Angeles. The red-eye only goes the other way.
Take this one to the beach or the bathroom if you h
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it
A 30ish New York woman heads to the LA area on the eve of the 2016 inauguration in search of an older friend’s missing daughter. I liked the snarky protagonist and the premise, but the second-half plot developments felt a little too crazy ass for me. Also, Lethem creates an LA rain storm that probably dumped five years worth of rain in a day or two, and it seemed so unrealistic that it took me out of the story.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is more a fairy tale than a noir mystery. And the tale is told in a very amusing manner by a highly neurotic, smart, somewhat witty New Yorker who is as out of place in the eastern outskirts of Los Angeles as Dorothy is in Oz.
Ben Ostrander
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clever writing with a scattershot, referential plot and I would have given it five stars but it ended without a good climax. It fizzled but maybe Lethem wanted to end it that way. Still, he's a really fine writer and I will probably read his next one.
When I read the line “if you hadn’t consented I would’ve raped you” I set the book aside and never laid eyes on it again other than to dump it into the return bin at the library.
Jan 24, 2019 marked it as abandoned
Read about 100 pages. That was too many pages. I read that many only because I had a cat on my lap & it was the book I had within reach. Ditching it, though. Don't really like it, the main character comes across as a harpie (hate to even say that) & I can't say I really care about the characters or story that much. (Some of the reviews I have since looked at on GR had similar impressions of the main character & many have mentioned that especially in this case, they have disliked havi ...more
Ned Frederick
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
The Feral Detective hums along nicely for the first third on narrator Phoebe's clever commentary and episodic horniness. Heist, the Feral Detective, is one taciturn, looming presence who does none of the heavy lifting required to carry the schizo narrative to its next stop on the crazy town express. This is one wacky book ladies and gentlemen (definitely not for anyone below the age of consent) that seems saddled by its need to be quirky and to shock the reader regularly. Phoebe is self-absorbed ...more
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Jonathan Allen Lethem (born February 19, 1964) is an American novelist, essayist and short story writer.

His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a genre work that mixed elements of science fiction and detective fiction, was published in 1994. It was followed by three more science fiction novels. In 1999, Lethem published Motherless Brooklyn, a National Book Critics Circle Award-win
“Like other names I censored lately, this was a vote against invoking monsters, against etching their reality into the air.” 0 likes
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