Sara Gran in the City of the Dead
I imagine that if I'd been trapped in that swampy, rootless, mud-coated hell, I would not talk like a breathless CNN report, either. Instead, I suppose, I would do what the returned, the uprooted, and the left-behind do in Gran's novel and speak, with understandable fear and reticence, about "the storm."
Claire DeWitt ... is a most unconventional PI novel, and I don't mean merely that Gran gives the title character/protagonist a package of quirks, though she does do that. Claire de Witt has lived in a number of cities, imbibing deeply of the eccentricities of all. She's got a bit of Jack Kerouac to her, a bit of Nancy Drew, and a bit of Ghost Dog.
As much fun as the book is, it is immensely moving in places and it constitutes a serious examination of the nature of guilt, good, and revenge and a touching testimony to the importance of friendship. Along the way, it overflows with compassion. But mostly, Gran knows how to tell a story. I'll leave you with one of my favorite examples of the book's verbal zest:
"In the afternoon I went back to Congo Square. This time I went as Elmyra Catalone, African-Italian American recovering crack addict from Memphis, Tennessee, raised Baptist, now occasionally Pentecostal, occasional sex worker, victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a cousin, mother of four children, one dead, one in foster care, one in Angola, one living in the town of Celebration, Florida, with a wife and two children. Elmyra is off the crack cocaine but she likes her liquor and has a schnapps now and then to be sociable."© Peter Rozovsky 2012