A PI in New Orleans: Claire DeWitt


I received another rejection for my novel* this week, from an agent who had “liked” my Twitter pitch. Is it strange that I’ve gotten so many rejections that it no longer bugs me?

Between getting rejected, working the day job, and freelance editing and transcribing, I managed to finish two novels this week: Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran, and The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens.

Claire DeWitt is a private eye who takes a case in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. She is investigating the disappearance of an attorney, and is haunted by a mysterious loss of her own. The story teems with local color and the reader gets the sense that Ms. Gran knows the devastated place intimately.

The prose is melancholy and savage. Claire is a hard woman who doesn’t hesitate to smoke wet or pull a gun in order to find the truth, which, she knows all too well, no one really wants to know. She is guided by the teachings of Jacques Silette, a French detective who wrote a seminal manifesto on, you guessed it, detecting. Her late mentor, Constance Darling, appears in Claire’s drug-soaked dreams, or maybe they’re memories. The reader staggers through drunken time, floats weightless next to Claire one minute, and in the next we’re plonked down to unforgiving Earth, being kicked by a homeless stranger. Gran has a talent for keeping the reader on an uneven keel, which gives the book its mesmerizing appeal, and as a writer, I’m in awe of the way she renders the solution to the mystery. Read this one before The Infinite Blacktop.

*Is my novel a mystery, suspense, thriller, or can I just call it a crime novel? I don’t even know anymore…