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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

(Claire DeWitt Mysteries #1)

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  8,395 ratings  ·  1,386 reviews
This knock-out start to a bracingly original new series features Claire DeWitt, the world’s greatest PI—at least, that's what she calls herself. A one-time teen detective in Brooklyn, she is a follower of the esoteric French detective Jacques Silette, whose mysterious handbook Détection inspired Claire’s unusual practices. Claire also has deep roots in New Orleans, where s ...more
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published June 2nd 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published May 24th 2011)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  8,395 ratings  ·  1,386 reviews

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Start your review of Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Claire DeWitt Mysteries, #1)
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to carol. by: Kernos
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
Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
’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
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Jul 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Shelby *trains flying monkeys* by: Dan Schwent
Claire DeWitt is probably one of the most unique characters I've ever read in a mystery book. She has a "bible" that she goes by written by her idol French detective Jacques Silette, she doesn't mind using a few drugs to enhance her abilities, and she believes she is the world's greatest detective.
Several of those very qualities got on my nerves at times during the book.
Lord, forgive my sins, of which there are too fucking many to count.
Then there were times I liked her. She fully admits her tro
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In “Claire DeWitt and The City of The Dead” by Sara Gran, Claire DeWitt is not your average P.I. She's the self-proclaimed world's greatest detective; she also uses her dreams, partakes in mind-expanding herbs and utilizes a manual on detection from a mysterious Frenchman to help her solve cases. That book gives her advice like “Only a fool looks for answers. The wise detective seeks only questions.“ or "Those who try to grasp on to the mystery will never succeed, only those who let it slip thro ...more
Lucy Langford
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it

“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. Satisfaction will be rare. Uncertainty will be your natural state. Sureness will always elude you. The detective will always circle around what he wants, never seeing it whole. We do not go on despite this. We go on because of it.”

Claire DeWitt, one of the more unusual PI's I've come across in literature, is set the task of
Joe Valdez
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-suspense
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is the fourth novel by Sara Gran, an exquisitely titled and wonderfully composed introduction to what publishers like to call "an unprecedented private investigator." Published in 2011, the author doesn't fall back on gimmick or try to build her mystery on the basis of a quirky characterization--alcoholic private eye, OCD private eye, 1980s private eye--but instead uses drunkenly rich language to unravel a mystery in, where else, New Orleans. Neither Claire ...more
Dan Schwent
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 g
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

It's a great noir detective story set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Ninja bonus points, it's the first of a series.

Sara Gran
James Thane
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quite frankly, one of the most unconventional detective novels I've ever read. But I liked it.

Claire gets a job to find the root cause behind the death of well-liked prosecutor who died during the storm. And that's where our mystery begins.

I've literally never read a novel with a detective whose behaviour was as outlandish as Claire's.

To clarify, here are some things she's done and claimed to have done over the span of this novel:
> smoked pot on the job
> dropped out of school at 17
> smelled c

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
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
Robert Dunbar
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
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
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I follow a couple of the top crime fiction awards and I have never seen Sara Gran crop up in those nominations. It is a colossal blunder on their part because Gran has an unique narrative voice that demands attention. Claire DeWitt, self proclaimed world's best detective is on the redemption trail after being in recovery for addiction issues. Set in post Katrina New Orleans, realized beautifully and heartbreakingly, her latest job is to find an assistant DA who went missing during the storm.

Timothy Dalton
Sep 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"That's the thing about being a private eye. The job will bleed you dry. No one ever says 'Hey, maybe the PI needs a break. Hey, let's buy the PI a drink.' No thank-you cards, no flowers, no singing telegrams, and half the time you don't even get paid." -- Claire DeWitt, private investigator, on her chosen profession

Sara Gran's City of the Dead takes that classic American archetype - a hard-drinking, cynical private eye with some integrity - and kicks it firmly into the 21st century with the new
Andrew Neal
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, different. Could have done without Silette's "Wherever you go- there you are." words of wisdom, and (view spoiler)

PS Would never have tried th
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery lovers who want something different
Shelves: kindle, mystery, 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
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was..interesting. I know that word is often used as some low-key shade like, "How was dinner? It was interesting." But I don't mean it that way. I just don't know what I think, exactly.

Claire DeWitt lives in an alternate universe (I thought this before I read an interview with the author that pretty much says the same thing) where private investigators are much more prevalent and revered and loathed in equal measure. They are also less Marlowe-style gumshoes and more loopy metaphysic
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt reads like hardboiled contemporary noir, it's dark and bleak and morally ambiguous at times with an intriguing central mystery and a compulsively readable private eye. It also shares genre tropes with those highly unbelievable cozy mysteries in which detectives are celebrated celebrities around the world known for solving cases such as The Murder on the Blue Train and The Jewels of Aunt Marjie. And then there's the child detective all grown up and living with failure an ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Arie by: carol.
From the starling cover to the cold hard end, this is an unusual book. It's a crime novel, but with hints of the supernatural, whose heroine heavily uses drugs and solves crimes out of an obsessive need. A strange book by a strange man is the lifeline, the heartbeat through the story that holds all the little separate pieces of plot together. There are three mysteries here: The surface (a man searching for his missing uncle), the catalyst (Claire DeWitt's missing friend) and the undercurrent of ...more
Matt Schiariti
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
I loved Come Closer and 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' 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
OK, this is a great book. The setting and atmosphere are grim, the protagonist likeable (even if she doesn’t think so and would perhaps be offended at my saying so), the side characters are engaging, the mystery intriguing…and every now and then it is funny. I find that very important.

The setting, New Orleans after “the storm”:

The streets of the Lower Ninth Ward were caked in grayish-brown dried mud. So was everything else. Nothing had been cleaned. Little bits of people’s lives were scattered a
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
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,
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  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
I decided if I heard Claire call herself 'the world's greatest private eye' one more time (it happens. a lot.) I was going to lose my shit so I'm going to quit while I'm ahead. ...more
I read The Infinite Blacktop on the basis of strong reviews when it was first published in 2018. I enjoyed it, but when I was done I realized that I very much wanted to read the first book in the series, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead. Infinite Blacktop was laced with references to Claire's personal history, and I had an idea that it would all make more sense if I started at the beginning.

Well, I've just done that, and although I can't say that "making sense" is something Sara Gran is go
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Claire DeWitt Mysteries (3 books)
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