When Paul Casablancas, Claire DeWitt’s musician ex-boyfriend, is found dead in his Mission District home, the police are convinced it’s a simple robbery. But Claire knows nothing is ever simple.
With the help of her new assistant, Claude, Claire follows the clues, finding hints to Paul’s fate in her other cases—especially that of a missing girl in the gritty 1980s East Village and a modern-day miniature horse theft in Marin. As visions of the past reveal the secrets of the present, Claire begins to understand the words of the enigmatic French detective Jacques Silette: “The detective won’t know what he is capable of until he encounters a mystery that pierces his own heart.” And love, in all its forms, is the greatest mystery of all—at least to the world’s greatest PI.
Claire is heavily tattooed; she drinks and takes drugs to excess, as often as not stealing the drugs from the medicine cabinets of unsuspecting friends. To solve her mysteries, she relies on mysticism and dreams as much as on more traditional methods of investigation. Claire investigates for the next several months with the aid of her new assistant, Claude, a graduate school dropout. In and around the investigation, Claire ruminates on the disappearance years earlier of one of her best friends, a girl named Tracy. As teenagers, Claire, Tracy and a girl named Kelly were inseparable. They discovered Silette’s book, Detection together and began investigating mysteries of their own. Then, shortly after they solved a particularly difficult case, Tracy simply disappeared and neither Claire nor Kelly ever heard from her again. Tracy’s disappearance was a critical element in the first Claire DeWitt novel and we now get the backstory that fills in many of the blanks.
In Bohemian Highway, we meet a Claire who is clearly out of control and not functioning well in her life’s destiny as a detective. She spends much of her time searching out sources for purchasing cocaine and whenever she visits anyone’s house or apartment, either as part of the investigation or just because, she seeks the bathroom and checks the bathroom cabinet for drugs. If she finds Percocet or Vicodin or Valium or anything else that will help her get high, she takes one or two of the pills and puts the rest in her purse. If she finds cocaine in the house, she steals it.
She is, in short, a mess. Her nose is constantly bleeding. Half the time it’s not clear whether she’s experiencing reality or some drug-induced dream. It is thoroughly depressing.
And yet, we are meant to believe that her finely honed instinct for detection is totally intact and that she is able to intuit the clues that she needs to eventually solve this case. I have no experience with cocaine, but somehow, I just don’t think that’s the way it works, especially when you are mixing cocaine with Vicodin, Percocet, Valium, Adderall or whatever else the next medicine cabinet holds. Yes, one has to suspend disbelief when reading fiction and allow the author his/her artistic license, but this was too much for me.
It seemed that the mystery, the main one and the smaller side ones, took a definite back seat to her drug use and her fogged musings on the friend of her high school days who went missing and was never found.
Not as good as the first in the series, but I think a third is coming out and perhaps that will wrap everything up.