I really needed this book right now.
I tried for almost a decade to get into the Claire DeWitt series. I thought the idea of a transgressive detective traipsing around the country solving crimes while spitting wry dialogue would be fun. But I felt like Sara Gran laced her books with too many acerbic observations and dead end philosophies; which inevitably messed with the flow of the book.
But as Stevie Nicks would say: Time makes bolder children grow older. My 20s became my 30s. Stuff happened. Life happened. And I became wise to Gran’s style. Not only did I like it, I came to love it.
And did I need this book right now.
There are three mysteries going on. The “current” one (set in 2011), gets the most play, while the origin story of Claire getting her California PI’s license, which follows similar themes, is the B plot. There are occasional flashbacks to Claire’s Brooklyn upbringing once more, which further details her relationship with her friends, one of which went missing when they were all teenagers.
In these three cases that tie together only in observation (or do they?), Gran plumbs the depths of what it means to “solve” a mystery. She’s very good at exploring the existential nature of solving mysteries by solving ourselves or solving the world; knowing we could never do these things to our full satisfaction but that things about ourselves are revealed along the way. Claire makes a great detective because she knows she’s hopelessly lost and that sensory pleasures have long since lost their joys, along with any concept of love. All she has is solving mysteries, which should leave her hollow but she finds a way to make it matter because it matters to her. This is her calling in life and, against the weight of existential dread, she’s going to follow it.
I’m struggling in my professional life right now, trying to figure out what’s next, looking at getting older and wondering what it all means. Gran tour guides this for me in a way that I found touching and fulfilling, which is probably not what she was going for but which is how I read it. I needed it right now.