The Feral Detective
April 25, 2019 9:30 AM - by Jonathan Lethem - Subscribe

Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She’s looking for her friend’s missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist to help.

A laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, Heist intrigues the sarcastic and garrulous Phoebe. Reluctantly, he agrees to help. The unlikely pair traverse California's stunning Inland Empire, navigating the enclaves of hippies and vagabonds who aim to live off the grid.

They learn that these outcasts exist in warring tribes--the Rabbits and the Bears--and that Arabella is likely caught in the middle. As Phoebe tries to delicately extricate her, she realizes that Heist has a complicated history with these strange groups and that they're all in grave danger.

Jonathan Lethem's first detective novel since Motherless Brooklyn delivers the same memorable delights: ecstatic wordplay, warm and deeply felt characters, and an offbeat sense of humor. Combined with a vision of California that is at once scruffy and magnificent, The Feral Detective emerges as a transporting, comic, and absolutely unforgettable novel.
posted by rue72 (2 comments total)
I loved the first third of the book, but bogged down in the middle and stalled out.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:59 PM on April 25, 2019

I'm still reading it, but have sort of stalled out about a third of the way through, too. The reveal about the Rabbits and the Bears was Too fanciful, I guess?

The real reason that I've stalled out, though, is that I don't like the narrator. To me, she comes off as really rude -- which is such a petty reason not to like a character! But it still makes me dislike her, or at least dislike reading about her (rudely) interacting with people. A lot of how she treats people makes me cringe.

I will say that I love the descriptions of the landscapes and the settings/geography, though. All the descriptions of the sun's glare are so dead-on, I can practically feel myself getting a sunburn. In general, I really feel like I'm in all the places that Letham is writing about...I just don't want to be there with those particular characters. Well, Heist seems OK if not especially interesting, but Phoebe needs to get over herself.

Motherless Brooklyn is one of my favorite books, and I bought the Feral Detective hoping to like it just as much, so maybe my expectations were unreasonably high.
posted by rue72 at 8:47 PM on April 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

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