Saturday, January 12, 2019

Claire DeWitt, the World's Greatest Detective, Returns with a New Mission

The Infinite Blacktop is the third novel in Sara Gran's series featuring Claire DeWitt, The World's Greatest Detective, and it's another excellent read. DeWitt is, by almost any standard, the most unique protagonist in modern crime fiction, and it's virtually impossible to adequately capture the depth and complexity of the character in a review. Suffice it to say, she's not your grandmother's Miss Marple.

Claire was drawn to detection as a young girl, and along with her friends, Tracy and Kelly, she began solving mysteries in the middle 1980s. There was never a case the trio couldn't crack. But then one day Tracy simply disappeared, never to be seen again, and her friend's disappearance remains the only case that Claire has never been able to solve. She and Kelly came to a parting of the ways and in the years after, Claire drifted around the country, living on the margins and solving mysteries as they were presented to her. "I didn't want a steady job and I didn't want a steady life and I didn't want to love anyone," she explains.

Claire is a disciple of the famous Jacques Silette, the French author of the book Detection the bible that has guided her life and career since the time she was a teen. Only a handful of detectives are wise enough and skilled enough to understand and apply the lessons that Silette provided, but they have served Claire well.

1999 found Claire in Los Angeles, trying to accumulate enough hours under the supervision of a licensed P.I. to qualify for her own license. She takes on an unsaved cold case involving the death of an artist who died in an apparent auto accident only a few months after the death of his girlfriend who was also an artist. Twelve years later, Claire will find herself in Oakland where someone attempts to kill her by deliberately slamming his Lincoln into her smaller car. Claire wakes up in the hospital, injured and confused, but clear headed enough to know that she needs to escape the hospital and find out who wants her dead before he tries again.

Gran weaves all three tales into a narrative that jumps repeatedly from 2011 to 1985 to 1999 and back again. It can be difficult at times to follow the action, but there's never anything linear about a book featuring Claire DeWitt. You simply have to surrender to the story, let it wash over you, and go with the flow, as the kids used to say back in the day. Like the first two books in the series, it's a great trip.

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