Saturday, October 19, 2013


First Sentence: I met Paul when a friend of my friend Tabith played at the Hotel Utah late on Thursday night.

An ex-boyfriend of PI Claire DeWitt is found dead. The police believe it was a robbery gone wrong, but Claire isn’t convinced, particularly when were appear to be links to the past. While Claire investigates, she sends her new assistant, Claude, off on a case of miniature horses that have gone missing from a ranch in Marin County.

Sara Gran has such a wonderful, original voice and often writes passages that make you stop and think…”Maybe it was true: Life was a series of words we’d been given to arrange as we pleased, only no one seemed to know how. A word game with no right solution, a crossword puzzle where we couldn’t quite remember the name of that song.” She is very good at expressing small truths, “Everyone things their grief is the first grief. Everyone things their grief is primary and everyone else’s is secondary.”

When some author’s characters refer to past cases, you feel as though you’ve missed a book in the series. When Claire refers to past cases, it is almost as an aside and assures you that it is fine that you don’t know the details. That said, it is very helpful to have read the actual first book in this series, “…City of the Dead.”

Told in first person, this is very much a character-driven book. It is fascinating to see how Gran incorporates different philosophical beliefs into Claire’s thought process. And then there is the book by the French detective Jacques Silette which seems to have almost magical properties of his own and becomes something of an on-going character in the series.  Claire, however, is far from being a paragon of virtue. She excels in vices; legal and illegal and the focus on these significantly and adversely effect the reader's view of the character.  Rather than want to know her better, she becomes someone you'd likely avoid.

Description and sense of place are also among Gran’s strengths, even if she does get a bit Map-Quest-y at times. For those who live, or know, the San Francisco Bay Area well, it is delightful following Claire to places so familiar to us. For those who don’t, her descriptions and details provide the feeling of being there.

Unfortunately, what is severely lacking is the mystery. It is there, but it seems the clues were not.

…Bohemian Highway” sadly lacks the charm, humor and magic of Ms. Gran’s first book. I found myself more annoyed by Claire, than entranced by her. I do hope Ms. Gran’s next book finds its way back to the appeal of the first, but I’m not completely certain I’ll be there to read it.

(PI-Claire DeWitt-New York City-1980s) – Okay
Gran, Sara
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013

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