Tavish McT

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-30-13

Suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride

I can’t say I’m a big fan of gumshoe novels, but I could spend a lot of time with Claire DeWitt, the “world’s greatest detective” and not afraid to tell you so. Sara Gran breaks the mold and creates a fresh new voice for the Claire DeWitt novels and the Audible versions narrated by Carol Monda are most certainly worth a listen.

If you're not already familiar with Claire DeWitt, I would strongly suggest reading or listening to “Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead” first. I revisited it after finishing “Bohemian Highway” and, not only is it a better story, you have the pleasure of being introduced to Jaques Silette, master detective, and his master treatise “Detection” that guides the work of his Silettian disciples. Silette and his teachings feature heavily in this latest book also.

Bohemian Highway jumps back and forth between two stories, one based in San Francisco, the other in Brooklyn, NY. The NY story centers on Claire’s teen years and recounts how her life and that of her friend Tracy was ruining by stumbling across a copy of Detection. The west-coast thread revolves around the murder of one of Claire’s exes, Paul Casablancas, and her attempts to nail the killer even as she struggles to come to terms with the depth of her feelings for her former lover. Transitions between the two storylines are somewhat disruptive but both are solid, even though the book had a much woollier overall feel than City of the Dead.

Dear Claire already had a serious drug habit in the previous book but in this one she’s routinely snorting enough cocaine to fell a bull elephant. The reader ends up feeling somewhat disgusted by her excesses, but that’s rather the point. Regardless, she’s a compelling character that seeks clues in dreams, charms, and Buddhist teachings, and it’s hard to stop listening once you hit the Play button.

Carol Monda is once again excellent as the voice of Claire and I hope we hear more from all three.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-13

Had to keep on listening through to the end!

I spent my formative years soaking up every book I could find about WWII (both fiction and non-fiction), so I knew all about Allied spies, secret Lysander flights into France and other occupied territories, the French Resistance, and the Gestapo’s response to these activities, so I thought I knew what to expect from this book.

My initial reaction was that of disappointment. I’d made the selection based on overall reader ratings and had not read the detailed reviews; had I done so, I would have prepared me for how the book unfolds. The first half of the book is a narrative by a captured female spy, codename Verity. She tells of her relationship to her friend Maddie, a skilled pilot who ultimately ends up flying her into France, and details her treatment by her French and German guards and Gestapo interrogators.

If you’re squeamish and worried about hearing about the sadistic techniques uses by Gestapo torturers, you need have no fear because Elizabeth Wein uses such a light touch that Verity’s plight just does not ring true and I was ready to rate this as a three-star listen.

Halfway through the book, Maddie takes over as narrator, telling the same story from her perspective. That sounds like a bad plot gimmick, but one quickly realizes that not all is at it seems and forces one to rethink everything one has heard from Verity’s hand and mouth. Ultimately, I had to find a quiet corner and listen to this book through to the end – it’s that compelling of a tale, and cleverly written despite my initial misgivings.

The two narrators both do an outstanding job (Verity and Maddie have their own distinct and authentic voices) – full marks to both of them for bringing their characters alive.
Give it a listen – you won’t regret it.

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4 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-10-13

Carol Monda makes this an unforgettable listen

I picked this book on a whim.

Like many people, I suspect, I’m post-Katrina book weary and wary of yet another book trying to understand the storm and its aftermath, but who can resist a title like “Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead”? Please!

The book did not disappoint. The underlying detective story is credible and kept me interested until the end, but not what I'd consider outstanding. What IS outstanding is the character that Sara Gran has created in the form of Claire DeWitt. I’m not sure she’s quite credible either, but you’ll certainly enjoy all her earthy little quirks. The back story involving Jaques Silette is masterful and adds an unforgettable dimension to an already colorful character.

But the narrator, Carol Monda, grabbed me from minute one; she IS Claire Dewitt and what makes this a five-star book. Her smoky, gravelly voice is wonderfully compelling, and I’ve since picked up to the recording a couple more times just for the sheer pleasure of hearing her talk. If you’re not wandering around the house saying “ze clues” at unexpected moments, you don’t have the volume turned up sufficiently!

I just added Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway to my wish list – with Carol Monda again the narrator, I don’t expect to be disappointed.

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33 of 35 people found this review helpful