Monday, December 9, 2019

Review of Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran (2013, Faber and Faber)

Claire DeWitt is a PI working in San Francisco. When Paul Casablancas, a guitarist and Claire’s ex-boyfriend, is found dead in his home she decides to investigate. The police think that it’s a robbery gone wrong. Claire suspects that there is more to it. Grounded in the philosophy and teachings of French detective, Jacques Silette, Claire’s detective technique can be a little unusual, but it gets results. The problem is the answers can be somewhat unpalatable and like many Silettians she has a host of quirks and personal problems. Paul’s death has hit her hard and she’s also having flashbacks to another personal case from her teens when a friend disappeared in New York. To cope she’s taking increasing amounts of cocaine and whatever prescription pills she can lift other peoples’ medicine cabinets. Sometimes barely functioning she relies on her assistant, Claude, to chase clues and look after other cases, but she doesn’t give up on finding the truth.

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway is the second book in the DeWitt series following the cases of a messed up but brilliant detective. In this outing, Claire is investigating the murder of an ex-boyfriend – the one that was meant to be but she let get away. Half debilitated by drugs, grief, and the memories of a past case, she slowly seeks clues over the following months, while also dealing with a couple of other cases and personal issues. As with all detectives trained in the Silettian tradition, her pursuit is truth rather than justice, though the truth can be painful and burdensome. In DeWitt, Gran has created a wonderful, flawed, complex, anti-hero character with a self-destructive streak. While the first book in the series was a good read, I thought the second instalment was excellent, with a nice mix of philosophy, dead-pan and dark humour, and two interesting mysteries (the death of the ex-boyfriend and the disappearance of a friend many years earlier). I was hooked from the get-go and my interest never waned as Claire stumbled through her investigation. In my opinion, this multifaceted, engaging and quirky tale would be perfect for a movie treatment, or better still a TV series.

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