July 2011

Mystery in the Big Easy

By Sara Gran
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Claire DeWitt thinks differently than most people when it comes to solving mysteries. According to Claire, “Clues are the most misunderstood part of detection. Novice detectives think it’s about finding clues. But detective work is about recognizing clues.” In Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Claire is summoned back to New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina to investigate the disappearance of Vic Willing, a notable prosecutor who worked within the corrupt legal system of New Orleans.

Claire had worked in New Orleans a few years earlier, studying under the tutelage of Constance, a well-known detective. After Constance’s untimely death, Claire severed ties with the city. However, the prospect of an unsolvable mystery entices her to return to New Orleans, which is haunted not only by the recent memory of Katrina, but ghosts from Claire’s past.

Using the book Détection by the famous French detective Jacques Silette, Claire follows clues, omens and instinct to help her solve the mystery. Her unorthodox tactics include mind-expanding drugs, working with gang members and befriending the local homeless population, all of which lead her on an unlikely path to discovering the truth. Mick Pendell, another one of Constance’s ex-students, assists Claire and provides connections to different people around the city, including Andray Fairview, a youth hardened by gang life who is the key to understanding the truth about Vic Willing.

As the plot twists, you feel like Claire is always one step ahead, understanding each clue’s depth before you can put the pieces together. The mystery of Vic Willing’s disappearance pulls you in, but Gran’s enticing characters will keep you hooked. This is a page-turner with an unexpected ending that will leave readers wondering what is just around the corner for Claire DeWitt and her unlikely crew of accomplices.

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