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JeffreyKeeten

JeffreyKeeten

CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD BY SARA GRAN

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead - Sara Gran

’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 investigate the disappearance of a prominent DA attorney, Vic Willing. He disappeared during Hurricane Katrina. The most natural reaction to such a request is that LOTS of people disappeared during Katrina, some by choice and some because they were washed out to sea or in those turbulent times were the victim of circumstances. It wasn’t difficult to be in the wrong place at the wrong time because there was no right place. Still there is a ripple in the universe that tells Claire this is a case for her.

Even though her client, Leon, is an idiot.

”’He fed the birds,’ I said to Leon.
Leon made a little face of disgust. People in New Orleans have a thing about birds.
‘Oh I forgot about that,’ he said. ‘Those parrots. I think they’ve got some program getting on to get rid of them. They’re an inverted species or whatever you call it.’
‘Invasive,’ I said. ‘So are we.’
‘Yeah. They eat crops,’ Leon said.
‘Unlike us,’ I said.
He frowned. ‘They’re dirty,’ he said. ‘They spread disease.’
I looked at him.
‘They’re from--’ he began, then stopped. ‘They live in--’
‘I heard some of ‘em are communists,’ I said. ‘Watch out. Do you mind if I take fingerprints?’
‘Fingerprints?’ Leon said, confused. ‘They have fingers?’
‘Uh, no,’ I said.’Well, maybe. But not from the parrots. From the house.’”


While checking through Vic’s bathroom Claire palms some down payment on the investigation... bottles of Vicodin and Valium. Leon you are just WAY too slow man.

Claire is the best private investigator on the planet for two reasons. Jacques Silette the writer of the investigative bible called Detection is dead and Claire’s mentor in the Silette investigative techniques Constance Darling is also unfortunately dead. By default Claire is now the best. They both were key in shaping Claire’s life and both still intrude like mystics into every case.

”Never be afraid to learn from the ether,” Constance told me. “That’s where knowledge lives before someone hunts it, kills it, and mounts it in a book.”

That might be what I’m doing with this review...killing it and mounting it.

”The clue that can be named is not the eternal clue,” Silette wrote. “The mystery that can be named is not the eternal mystery.”

Please feel free to ponder for as long as you like.

Claire went through a hard time after Constance was killed. She lost her center. Her rock. Her reason for reasoning. The state of Utah declared her officially insane. She got kicked out of a tattoo convention in L.A. and was banned for life from the Sands in Vegas. I have a feeling that a bit of advice from Constance eventually percolated through the mist of pain.

”You can’t change anyone’s life,” she said. “You can’t erase anyone else’s Karma.”...”All you can do is leave clues,” she said. “And hope that they understand, and choose to follow.”

Constance left plenty of clues providing a path for Claire for when she was ready to follow. I have people in my office asking for advice about just about everything from what car to buy to whether their personal relationships are working.

I’m thinking about hanging out a shingle.

The frustrating part is that usually they are looking for someone to agree with them not offer advice. I persist in the face of such disappointment and hope that after their determinations don’t pan out that the way will be cleared to at least take another look at the advice I gave them. (Maybe if enough time has passed the idea will now be theirs.) I never thought about advice as clues and certainly that is a more Zen way to look at these situations. I’ve had my moments where I’ve felt more like saying to heck with everyone and closing my door to their problems.

Constance’s advice made me remember to use…Serenity Now!

”Happiness is the temporary result of denying the knowledge one already has,” Silette wrote. “Once one knows what one knows--once one knows the solution to his mysteries--happiness is besides the point. But in rare cases, something much better can bloom.”

Let that bang around in your head for a while. Is that a martini crooning to me from the bar?

Leon decides to fire Claire because the investigation is moving slooowwwly (clues don’t always reveal themselves quickly or in an orderly fashion),and also because Claire is circling around some revealing characteristics of Vic that may tarnish his image.

Don’t panic this has happened before.

”Leon,” I said. “At some point in the development of the detective/client relationship, it’s natural for the client to want to fire the PI. It’s a part of the process, and that’s okay. But we need to move past that, to a better place--a place of healing, if you will.”
I didn’t think any of that was true, about clients wanting to fire their private dicks. They usually wanted to fire me. That was true enough. Almost always they wanted to fire me. Actually, every time. Every time except one, the time in Dallas when the guy killed his own mother and then hired me to find the killer because he didn’t know the murderer was one of his own personalities. He never fired me.


Sara Gran’s writing style reminds me of Jasper Fforde. Like Fforde she balances witty repartee, and wacky characters with weighty philosophical concepts that made this reader stop frequently to take a few of those thoughts for a lap or two around the brain before moving on to the next paragraph. She has introduced us to characters like Constance Darling and Jacque Silette that could each merit their own books in the future. I’m more than curious, maybe insatiably so, to discover where Gran will take Claire DeWitt in book two.