Thursday, November 15, 2018

Heard: "Claire Dewitt and the Bohemian Highway" by Sara Gran

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran, 2013, Wisconsin Digital Library download.

This is one of the best books I have read or listened to in a while. Great stuff all the way around. Upon finishing the book I was very happy to learn the third DeWitt just came out. I even signed up for Gran's email list.

From the first sentence I remembered details from the existential detective plot from book #1. DeWitt as a loner P.I. and follower of the great French detective, Silette. Silette wrote and published a famous treatise on detection that is part hippie-dippy-new-age-mystical bullshit and part pragmatic truth.

This time around has DeWitt getting a phone call that a former boyfriend from years ago has been murdered. DeWitt's name was still associated with the dead Paul and a cop she knows calls her to help handle the grieving widow. DeWitt arrives on scene, helps smooth things along, and a couple weeks later is asked by Paul's sister to look into his death. The sister thinks Paul's Wife did the deed.

DeWitt follows the regular path of her life. She works cases no one else can resolve - after all, she may be the world's greatest detective but she also the detective of last resort.  She makes few lasting relationships. She does more and more drugs and she does more and more investigating into Paul's murder.

For DeWitt and other followers of Silette it is the mystery that is the goal. The client, the victim, and the payment are all secondary to the mystery. To be a great detective you should have no attachments - nothing to distract you or hinder your work. DeWitt's sex life is pickups at bars and parties. Her friends are more of the casual night out kind of music, drugs, and drinking buddies. Her recently hired assistant is there as her go-fer and assistant.

I think DeWitt is a very intriguing character and Gran does a hell of a job. The previous novel established DeWitt's continuing search for her missing teen pal from 20-25 years ago. Gran dives deeper into that story as we flash back and forth from her search for Paul's killer to Claire's time as a unsupervised teenager in scuzzy 1980s New York City. Claire and her two best friends at the time were followers of Silette and trying to establish themselves as teen detectives. They were the school-skipping drug-taking opposites of the Hardys, the Three Investigators, and Ms. Drew. Late nights at bars and clubs, Drunken parents, midnight subway rides.

DeWitt and her two friends take on a missing girl case - we are told by a present day character that every case is a missing girl case - of a party girl whose roommates cannot find her. The three girls pursue the case like terriers as they stand up to everyone and go any place. Hell you're getting two novels in one as DeWitt both reminisces and pursues Paul's case.

1. Remember that neat-o blog Gran and Megan Abbott used to run? The Abbot Gran Old Tyme Medicine Show.
2. Sara without an H.
3. I've no experience buying drugs but there seems to be a universal truth that customers are stuck listening to drug dealers ramble on and on and on. If a customer buys and runs they risk offending the drug dealer and losing their drug source.
4. Lots of drug use. DeWitt snorts cocaine. Steals pills from multiple bathroom cabinets. Drinks prodigiously.
5. DeWitt names all her cases, e.g. The Case of the Missing Horse, The Case of the Congestive Duck (I made those up.).. Same as Nancy Drew and the Hardys.
6. DeWitt is looking for some meaning. Part of that search is what would have happened with Paul if she had not wandered off from the relationship. If she were able to freely love someone.
EDIT: 11-29-2018. I just received Gran's irregular email newsletter. I sent a response email just because. The email bounced back as The address you sent your message to wasn't found at the destination domain. It might be misspelled or it might not exist. I do not know if that is intentional but it is so damn fitting for DeWitt's and Silette's philosophy. You'll only find the correct email if you are meant to find the correct email.

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