I've been meaning to read Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead for, well, years.
That one sounded like a poor attempt at a teenage Claire DeWitt to me... @bkshelvesofdoom— Colleen Mondor (@chasingray) June 3, 2014
In so doing, I was inspired to compile a SHORT list of girl detectives who reside in the Adult Stacks.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran
Claire is now in her thirties, but she STARTED OUT as a teen detective: first, running around Brooklyn solving mysteries with her two best friends according to the tenets laid out in Jacques Silette's detective handbook/philosophical treatise Détection, and then, investigating the disappearance of one of those friends.
She never found her.
It's been years since she's been in New Orleans—she left after her beloved mentor was murdered—but now she's back, investigating the disappearance of a District Attorney who went missing during Hurricane Katrina. It's full of great descriptions and depictions of post-disaster wreckage, New Orleans culture, and gentrification; the dialogue is excellent, there's a fantastic sense of place and atmosphere, and the mystery itself is tight tight tight. It's about innocence lost and about lost innocents, about history repeating itself, about different ways of dealing with tragedy and about how easy it is to lose one's self.
All that would be fantastic on its own, but where the book really shines is in Claire's voice, which reads both totally original AND classic noir. She's got a deep well of sadness and anger, but she's also understatedly hilarious. To say that she's not entirely reliable is probably an understatement—she's got a history of psychiatric problems as well as a penchant for abusing drugs and alcohol on a regular basis—but, at the same time, I never doubted that she was speaking her own truth.
I had a few issues: there is some unnecessary repetition in description and explanation (her truck, what wet is, info about OPP), but more bizarrely, there is a refrigerator that mysteriously appears out of nowhere (at first I chalked it up to her semi-instability, but as there was never another moment like it, I'm pretty sure it was a weird continuity error):
Newish appliances in the kitchen and a hole where the refrigerator had been. p28
Next I took prints from some spots around the house a visitor was likely to touch, labeling them as I went. The doorknobs. The refrigerator. p36
And, this is completely a matter of personal taste, but the Quaker parakeets as a metaphor for the forgotten/lost/unwanted of New Orleans was a little too LOOK IT'S A METAPHOR for me.
But, overall, HOLY COW I LOVED IT, and I'm going to request book two from the library TODAY.
What Was Lost, by Catherine O'Flynn
I read this YEARS ago, and apparently never wrote about it. Which is sad, because it was great.
It's about a 10-year-old girl detective who skulks around a shopping mall, trailing suspects and investigating imaginary mysteries... until she disappears, never to be seen again. Twenty years later, a mall security guard—who was a classmate of hers—spots her on the surveillance footage...
A Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley:
June, 1950. When we first meet eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, she's tied up, gagged, and locked in a dark closet. Not for long, though: her older sisters Ophelia and Daphne may have her beat in terms of pure physicality, but they'll never be a match for her brain.
So when a real tangle of a mystery arrives at Buckshaw—quite literally at the front door—Flavia isn't just intrigued: she's ecstatic. She doesn't know what the dead jackdaw means, or why it has a Penny Black postage stamp impaled on its beak. But she does know that it means something to her philatelist father: and whatever it is, it isn't good. When she finds a dying man in the cucumber patch later that night—a man who she saw arguing with her father just hours before—the mystery becomes that much more intriguing... and with her father as the most logical suspect, her need to find out the truth becomes that much more urgent.
Others? There MUST be more.