Five million stars.
But wait, if I rate this book that high, what does that make Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead? Fucking awesome, of course, but I rated that five stars as well. Yet these were two very different, powerful reads.
Since we parted ways with Claire way back in 2013 in Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway, Sara Gran started writing for Southland, apparently as one of the main writers in 2012 and 13. Claire left a very significant mystery unsolved, and so I scouted everywhere for signs of Gran’s activity. But is she John Scalzi? No. She, like Claire, doesn’t appear to care if anyone knows who she is.
“San Fransisco didn’t throw open her arms and welcome me to her bosom. No place ever had. But the only unhappy residents whose opinions I had to care about were the police.”
She was on some social media for a while, then briefly, Twitter, and then she dropped off the face of the earth as far as the internet knew. She lost her domain name, apparently, and started a new site, but much like the first, updated it about once a year. I began to despair that much like Claire, Gran had immersed herself in drugs and mystery, and for the first time in my life, began to fret about an author. There is too much complication in Claire to be anything but semi-autobiographal, I thought.
And then rumors started to leak in early 2018 about a new Claire book. I wrote it down, forgot about it, and when it finally hit NetGalley, Dan was kind enough to let me know.
Oh, the book? The book is, quite possibly, the I-Ching, a bound Tarot deck, an astrological guide or a fortune cookie. Much like City of the Dead, it spoke to me in complex ways. I was coming home from a ten-day vacation and had a lot to process. As always, Claire seemed to speak to my soul, but this time, we were both older, both more mature. Claire was fighting bitterness and despair, but she’s always done that.
“But age isn’t just time passing. It’s time breaking you–your will, your heart, your beliefs. Richter’s breaks were written in the deep wrinkles in his skin, in his tired posture, in his large, sagging hands.”
In this book, Claire is solving the mystery of who is trying to kill her. We also go back in time to follow the case that was supposed to complete her California P.I. license application, and discover the true mystery. Through all of this, much like the prior two books, she’s thinking about her two best friends from childhood who are part of her own significant mystery. It is all integrated together quite well, and the mysteries end up being rather intriguing. I’ll note that this is absolutely not the place to pick up the mysteries of Claire Dewitt; start with Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead. While each larger story stands alone, Claire’s personal mystery plays a role that is best appreciated through the backstory.
“People wanted to tell you the truth. They just didn’t want it to be true, and they didn’t know they wanted to tell it.”
As always, I highlighted about ten percent of the book, but we’ll all have to wait until I get my hands on a hardcover copy to share. I will note that Gran has some very dry humor regarding Los Angeles, is a keen observer of human nature, and has a lot of hard-won wisdom.
Many, many, many thanks to Dan for the heads-up, and to Netgalley and Atria books for an ARC e-book. The quotes are subject to change in the final book, but I think they give a good flavor of Gran’s writing.