Saturday, August 17, 2019

Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran

Zen Existentialism? Punk Rock Middle Aged Nancy Drew? Spiritual Self Help for F--- ups? Bleak Stoner/Slacker Noir Comedy? A Study in Uncertainty? It’s hard to sum up the genre or even the tone of Gran’s Dewitt books; they veer from teen detective overconfidence, to almost slapstick comedy, to genuine insight, to existentialism/ borderline nihilism, to some level of spiritual hope, to stoner haze often on the same page. It’s a mix that would seem unlikely to work, but the result is a series of books I will continue to reread for years to come.

When I first read all of Gran’s work last year, I thought that this was probably my favorite. Now that I’ve reread all three Dewitt books, I think I’m leaning towards The City of the Dead. But it’s not by a long distance. Like the other two in the series, Infinite Blacktop moves between  three different time periods in Claire Dewitt’s life, and various corresponding cases. The first strand is Claire’s attempt to find out who attempted to murder her at the end of Bohemian Highway. The second her resolving a cold case about a dead artist. The third re-raises the longer arc of the series of her trying to find her missing friend and fellow detective from her teenage detective days, specifically by trying to figure out who was behind Cynthia Silverton comics that, along with Detecion by Jaques Silette (one of Gran’s best creations), drove them to the odd form of detection they practice. This search happens alongside her search for her attacker, but is supplemented with flashbacks to her teenage years. These strands merge in a very satisfying way. But these books are not about plot. Dewitt’s voice, so funny, moving, bleak and insightful, is the main draw here. That and the understanding/acknowledgement of the bleakness and uncertainty of the world, yet the willingness to try to chart a way through it.

If this were the final Claire Dewitt book, it would be a good stopping place. I loved Gran’s other work, and I’d particularly like to see another horror novel along the lines of Come Closer. Dewitt is a character that has really stuck with me, though,  and I really want more books featuring her. I’m looking forward to revisiting Gran’s other books, but she would be among my favorite writers on the basis of these three alone.


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