Review: The Feral Detective

Hello readers!

Jonathan Lethem is the author of an essay I was reading in a restaurant when, at the same instant my eyes registered the words Like a Rolling Stone (the essay was about a film director, but Lethem often writes brilliantly on music and movies, too), the first notes of that song rang out over the restaurant’s speaker system. Mere coincidence is of course the rational explanation, but in the moment, the incident  sparkled with a thrilling, mysterious air that would be right at home in a Jonathan Lethem novel.

Lethem’s forthcoming The Feral Detective is, like his earlier books Motherless Brooklyn and Gun, With Occasional Music, a riff on the detective genre, where plots can turn on such strange incidental or coincidental details. Motherless Brooklyn won awards, making comparison between it and his latest a handy marketing tool. I found his latest quite a different, curious book, but if for no other reason, I can say honestly that I enjoyed reading it, if not quite as much.

Charles Heist, the eponymous character, keeps an opossum in his desk drawer and seems to be responsible for the care and well-being of a young girl of mysterious origin. Heist is hired by Phoebe Siegler, the book’s central character, to help locate a friend’s missing daughter. The story is told through Phoebe’s viewpoint as she and Heist become increasingly involved, both professionally and personally.

The investigation quickly grows strange, and along the way, Phoebe begins to question the more civilized world she feels increasingly isolated from, as well as the motivations and identity of her companion, who may be more deeply involved in all the foregoing than he is letting on.

As in his other books, Lethem’s facility for describing emotions and inner psychological states of characters is razor sharp here, and short chapters keep the plot careening along unpredictably, even if The Feral Detective‘s unusual elements never quite gel as completely for me as in the Brooklyn and Gun books.

Lethem has never been one to repeat himself, and because I like some of his books so much, I want to like all of them equally. But that has not proved to be the case, and while I did make it through The Feral Detective, easily and happily, that familiar feeling of enjoying it a bit less than I hoped to accompanied the effort. But if any of the foregoing intrigues you, by all means read The Feral Detective, or anything by Lethem. There are joyful surprises to be found.

–Kelvin

You can get The Feral Detective online here, or call the store to reserve a copy!

Happy reading!

 

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