The City of the Dead
written by Sara Gran (2012)
The first of (so far) two books with detective Claire DeWitt, The City of the Dead is a mystery that takes you into layers of atmospheres, dreams, hallucinations and throughout an unconventional journey.
Self-proclaimed world’s best detective Claire DeWitt is wounded -like all detectives- but also the student and follower of the Jacques Silette’s “school”, that solves mysteries by listening to what can’t be listened and seeing what can be seen. That means interpreting dreams, throwing dices and trusting symbolisms, on top of having developed an acute sense of reading humans behaviours, and the usual skills you can expect from a detective paid a very high fee.
I’ve grown a bit tired of the broken hero who has seen it all, knows it all, and will solve the mystery in the end. But there’s something about Claire DeWitt that makes you want to know more and follow her: her past is layered with complex and interesting stories, and Gran sheds light on them just enough to keep you going and want to know more. And the unorthodox way the mystery is solved is also a big asset.
The City of the Dead takes place in the New Orleans, probably the best city in the United States to create ambiance and justify storytelling that are not too anchored in a cartesian’s lineage. It shows the post-Katrina town as it is, with its charms, its tragedies, and mostly its complexities on a human level.
DeWitt is not a total outsider -she’s lived in the city for several years, but she is our guide and our entry ticket: she decodes for the reader what’s happening under her eyes, and knows how to read people even though she doesn’t belong there anymore.
If you’re into mysteries, thriller and ‘polars’, as we say in French, it’s certainly worth the read. Below are the other novels that were selected in the same genre, and you can see all the books in the MCM here:
- Jar City & Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridasson
- Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina
- Robe de Marié by Pierre Lemaitre
- Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen
- The Field of Blood by Denise Mina
- The Red Road by Denise Mina
- The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
- Still Midnight by Denise Mina
- Before I Go to Sleep by S.J.Watson
- The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina