Synopses & Reviews
“Delicious and addictive.”—Salon.com
“The book is beautifully written in a tight, quirky style that distinguishes Gran as one of the more original writers working today.”—Bruce DeSilva, Associated Press
“Reads . . . as if David Lynch directed a Raymond Chandler novel.”—CNN
“What would you get if that punkish dragon girl Lisbeth Salander met up with Jim Salliss Lew Griffin walking the back streets of New Orleans? Or Sue Graftons Kinsey Millhone transformed herself into a tattooed magnolia driving a 4x4? Clare DeWitt, thats what youd get . . . DeWitts mesmerizing character and memorable voice take your breath away.”—New Orleans Times-Picayune
Claire DeWitt believes she is the worlds greatest PI, even if few agree with her. A one-time teen detective in Brooklyn, she is a follower of the esoteric French detective Jacques Silette, whose mysterious handbook Détection inspired Claires unusual practices. Claire also has deep roots in New Orleans, where she was mentored by Silettes student the brilliant Constance Darling—until Darling was murdered. When a respected DA goes missing she returns to the hurricane-ravaged city to find out why. Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a knockout start to a bracingly original new series.
“The hard-living, wisecracking titular detective bounces around post-Katrina New Orleans trying to track down a missing prosecutor in this auspicious debut of a new mystery series—and the Big Easy is every bit her equal in sass and flavor.”—Elle
“Reminds me why I fell in love with the genre.”—Laura Lippman
"I love this book!" -- Sue Grafton
"In this expertly paced debut thriller from Irish author Black (the pseudonym of Booker Prize-winner John Banville), pathologist Garret Quirke uncovers a web of corruption in 1950s Dublin surrounding the death in childbirth of a young maid, Christine Falls. Quirke is pulled into the case when he confronts his stepbrother, physician Malachy Griffin, who's altering Christine's file at the city morgue. Soon it appears the entire establishment is in denial over Christine's mysterious demise and in a conspiracy that recalls the classic film Chinatown. And the deeper Quirke delves into the mystery, the more it seems to implicate his own family and the Catholic church. At the start, the novel has the spare melancholy of early James Joyce, describing a Dublin of private clubs, Merrion Square townhouses and the occasional horse-drawn cart; as the plot heats up and the action shifts to Boston, Mass., it becomes more of a standard detective story. Though Black makes an occasional American cultural blooper, he keeps divulging surprises to the last page so that the reader is simultaneously shocked and satisfied. Author tour. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[An] enjoyable crime novel....A good story, and gorgeous writing." Kirkus Reviews
"Christine Falls is deeply atmospheric....[C]rime-fiction fans who favor garden-variety mysteries may find this complex and deeply ruminative novel more than they bargained for." Booklist
"Christine Falls is a triumph, of classical crime fiction, finely, carefully made, not a single false move or wrong word why oh why don't they write books like this anymore?" Alan Furst, bestselling author of Kingdom of Shadows
"Leave it to an Irish novelist to nail down what's so scary about parentage, family and belonging." Los Angeles Times
"Readers who enjoy a meaty, textured tale from a skillful novelist will be well satisfied." Seattle Times
"Mr. Banville, a k a Mr. Black, makes his plot almost secondary to the haunted, richly developed characters who ricochet through this suspenseful but unhurried book, all of them full of secrets and all very much products of their time." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"A page-turner told in prose so beautiful you'll want to read some passages repeatedly. Intricately plotted, beautifully written."--The Boston Globe
"Measured, taut, and transfixing . . . Benjamin Black's plotting is methodical, detailed, and always gripping. You can smell the smoke in Quirke's favorite pub and touch the cool walls in a Boston convent he later visits."--USA Today "Swirling, elegant noir . . . Crossover fiction of a very high order . . . Rolls forward with haunting, sultry exoticism . . . toward the best kind of denouement under these circumstances: a half inconclusive one."--The New York Times
"Offers a subtler, deeper satisfaction than just finding out whodunit. . . . What's most disconcerting of all about Christine Falls is the atmosphere of moral claustrophobia enveloping it."--The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A dark, ambitious crime novel . . . Its going to make more than a few readers flip the book over to look at the author photo to make sure Banvilles really pulling the strings."--Newsday
"Crime fiction rarely lives up to the term 'literary,' but [Christine Falls] is the happy exception."--Entertainment Weekly
"Just when I begin to despair that the PI novel has worn out its welcome, a writer with a fresh take reminds me why I fell in love with the genre. Sara Gran has long specialized in shaking up and revitalizing other corners of the genre world, so its no surprise that she performs this same magic in CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD. And while I confess to having very little objectivity about New Orleans and no credentials to judge its literary portrayal, this is a valuable addition to the (way too small) body of post-storm novels."--Laura Lippman "Terrific. I love this book! Absolutely love it. This is the first fresh literary voice I've heard in years. Sara Gran recombines all the elements of good, solid story-telling and lifts something original from a well-loved form."--Sue Grafton
"I just burned through Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, and it's the first truly fantastic book I've read this year. Gran's evocation of the exposed wounds of New Orleans - before and after the storm - is a master-class in descriptive and emotive writing, and Claire is one of the most exciting new characters in years; a Raymond Chandler heroine with just enough of an off-beat vibe to tilt the whole thing enticingly off-kilter. Everything here - from the smallest touches to the grander mythology setting the tone of the series - just sings."--Drew Williams, Little Professor Book Center "Not your mother's girl detective, Claire DeWitt is a cool blend of Nancy Drew and Sid Vicious. With Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Sara Gran has pulled the traditional female sleuth into the twenty-first century with a novel that's smart and hip, dark and funny. I can't wait for the next one." - Alafair Burke, author of LONG GONE "Gran (Dope, 2006, etc.) provides...a comically self-important detective and a searing portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans."--Kirkus Reviews
"As brash and bold as Sherlock Holmes himself, Claire DeWitt arrives in still-chaotic New Orleans 18 months after Katrina. She's been hired to investigate the disappearance of Vic Willing, a local prosecutor, who's not been heard from since the hurricane. Claire surprises the local gangtsa set with her unique bravado. One of them, Andray, is compelled to help her tap into the darkness of Katrina's aftermath. From there, Claire finds her answers. Mentored and deeply inspired by a famous French detective, the I Ching, and profoundly illuminating dreams, a complex Claire leads us into her own nightmares as well. VERDICT This is not to be missed-Claire is a moody, hip, and meticulous investigator. Gran (Dope; Come Closer) builds an addictive sense of anticipation with a fantastical frame. Alternately gritty and dreamy, this would appeal to those who liked Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist and readers of Charlie Huston (e.g., The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death). Highly recommended." --Library Journal STARRED
"Captivating"--Publishers Weekly, STARRED "If there isnt yet a subgenre called funky noir, this wacky PI novel could be a fragrant first...lots of fun."--Booklist PRAISE FROM BOOKSELLERS (PRE-PUB TOUR) "Thanks again for such a wonderful experience last week. I love how HMH and Algonquin are bringing writers to the booksellers ahead of publication date because it makes such a difference having that personal knowledge of the author. And when the authors are *awesome* like Sara is, it makes their books stand out more in my mind, and thus makes me more likely to try to handsell their books. Sure, we all try to sell the books we like and we think a customer will like, but when there's a personal connection with the author, it feels more like we're introducing new readers to not just a book, but a friend."--Emily Crowe, Odyssey Book Shop "Sara Gran is awesome. Dont let her small, bespectacled frame deceive you; shes a firecracker with fascinating stories to tell, and she has an obvious, passionate love of her craft. I could have talked to her for hours. And I love her book so far; its terrifically different from so many other mysteries Ive read. And with regard to New Orleans: she really knows her stuff. I DO very much like the pre-publicity dinners, and not just because of the free booze. It encourages me to read books I might not ordinarily pick up (*Saras being an exception, as its right up my alley), and talking at length with the author about why they wrote the book, their background, etc. all helps me to sell their book." --Hilary Emerson Lay, Spirit of '76 Bookstore "We had a blast with you, Carla and Sara. I think these sorts of pre-pub events are very worth it. I do believe they help generate enthusiasm for a book and an author which helps generate sales. Of course, Sara is an author that it's easy to be enthusiastic about. She's genuine, smart, fun and quick to forge connections. That is, we like her very much. Being a former bookseller, she's kin and you can feel that. In a good way. Like when you meet a cousin you barely know but like instantly. She's our cousin who has made good and we're sorry we don't get to see her more because she lives on the wrong side of the country."--Stan Hynds, Northshire Bookstore "The novel, Gran's fourth, is difficult to categorize, offering a strangely appealing mix of the mystical and the hard-boiled. The book is beautifully written in a tight, quirky style that distinguishes Gran as one of the more original writers working today."--Bruce DeSilva, Associated Press
In the debut crime novel from the Booker-winning author, a Dublin pathologist follows the corpse of a mysterious woman into the heart of a conspiracy among the city's high Catholic society.
It's not the dead that seem strange to Quirke. It's the living.
One night, after a few drinks at an office party, Quirke shuffles down into the morgue where he works and finds his brother-in-law, Malachy, altering a file he has no business even reading. Odd enough in itself to find Malachy there, but the next morning, when the haze has lifted, it looks an awful lot like his brother-in-law, the esteemed doctor, was in fact tampering with a corpse and concealing the cause of death.
It turns out the body belonged to a young woman named Christine Falls. And as Quirke reluctantly presses on toward the true facts behind her death, he comes up against some insidious and very well-guarded secrets of Dublin's high Catholic society, among them members of his own family.
Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950s, the first novel in the Quirke series brings all the vividness and psychological insight of Booker Prize winner John Banville's fiction to a thrilling, atmospheric crime story. Quirke is a fascinating and subtly drawn hero, Christine Falls is a classic tale of suspense, and Benjamin Black's debut marks him as a true master of the form.
The hero of Christine Falls, Quirke, is a surly pathologist living in 1950s Dublin. One night, after having a few drinks at a party, he returns to the morgue to find his brother-in-law tampering with the records on a young woman's corpse. The next morning, when his hangover has worn off, Quirke reluctantly begins looking into the woman's history. He discovers a plot that spans two continents, implicates the Catholic Church, and may just involve members of his own family. He is warned — first subtly, then with violence — to lay off, but Quirke is a stubborn man. The first novel in the Quirke series brings all the vividness and psychological insight of John Banville's writing to the dark, menacing atmosphere of a first-class thriller.
In the first of a new mystery series featuring quirky private investigator Claire DeWitt, Claire investigates the disappearance of a top prosecutor in post-Katrina New Orleans.
About the Author
Sara Gran is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, including Come Closer, Dope, and the Claire DeWitt series. She also writes for film and TV and has published in the New York Times, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and USA Today.
Reading Group Guide
1. "In secret," the author writes, "Quirke prized his loneliness as a mark of some distinction." (pg. 12). What does Quirkes loneliness do for him? How does it make possible what he ultimately accomplishes in the story? Is Quirkes isolation part of what allows him to see the truth about the conspiracy around him?
2. What does Crawford mean when he says to Quirke that America is "the New World," that, "This is the place. Gods country." How are Ireland and America treated differently in the novel? How do these portrayals relate to the current America and Ireland?
3. Do the revelations about Quirke, Phoebe, and what he knew about their relationship change your perception of how he treated her earlier in the novel? Why do you think Quirke kept the secret so long of who her parents were? Was it the right decision?
4. Early in the novel, Quirke is thinking about his late wife Delia: "Perhaps he had cared for her more than
he knew, had cared for what she was, that is, and not just what she had been to him." How do these two different
types of caring come into play for other characters in the novel? Do you think they are always distinct
from each other? Are some people capable only of one or the other?
5. What do you think of the overall portrait of the Catholic Church that emerges from the novel? Did you find the conspiracy plausible? Did you feel sympathy for the nuns, the Staffords, and other less powerful figures who were complicit in it?
6. Consider the difference between Quirkes early childhood, first in a brutal orphanage and then in an adoptive home, and Mals, as the natural-born son of a wealthy father who loved him less than his brother. How do you think their respective childhoods can be connected to the decisions they make in their relationships in this story?
7. What role does social class play in the novel?
8. Why do you think Quirke sleeps with Rose? Is she right when she tells him, "Youre more like me than your precious Sarah. A cold heart and a hot soul…"?
9. What do you think drew Quirke and Sarah together initially? Do you think they were better off for having stayed apart throughout the years, despite an acknowledged love for each other?
10. Quirke realizes midway through the novel that as "Mr. Punch and fat Judy" were beating him, the prospect of his own death was insignificant, that "he had thought he was going to die and was surprised at how little he feared the prospect." Is this is a sign of bravery in Quirke, or despair, or both? Do you think his own life matters more or less to him by the end of the novel?
11. At the end of chapter 28 a nun says to Quirke, "From the little Ive seen of you, youre a good man, if only you knew it." Do you agree with her assessment? What does she mean by, "if only you knew it." Would knowing it change his behavior?
12. What do you imagine happening after the end of the book? How will Quirkes relationship to his family evolve, including to Sarah and Phoebe? Have the events in this story made him a happier man, a better man? Or have they changed him for the worse?