Excerpt from The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Feral Detective

A Novel

by Jonathan Lethem

The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem X
The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2018, 336 pages
    Aug 2019, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Print Excerpt

"Just a pet, then."

"Some people thought so, but they were misinformed. I took her off their hands."

"Ah. So now she lives in your desk?" "For the time being."

"Then what—you release her to the wild?" "If she lives. She probably won't."

It all sounded a little righteous to me, but I didn't have the zoological grounds to quibble. Still, I couldn't keep from the impression that Heist cuddled the animal not for its own sake, and not even to impress me, but to salve his own desolation. Maybe just hearing about lost girls was too much for this person. I'd begun kicking myself for imagining he could locate one.

"What do you need to go forward?" I asked. "I mean, concerning Arabella."

"I'll ask around." He stroked the opossum, who blinked at me. "Should I pay you?"

"Let's see what I find, then we'll talk. Are there other names?" "Other names?"

"Other names she might go under. Or names she's thrown around, part of this time in her life. Friends, boyfriends, enemies."

"I think she quit throwing names around. Quit calling home entirely. But I'll check with her mom."

"Anything is better than nothing." "There is one name, though I hesitate." He and Jean waited, all eyes on me. "Leonard Cohen."

"Go on."

"She was a bit of a freak about him, I think that might be worth mentioning. Even before he died, I mean. It could be that's the point of this, ah, general destination." Not to add that I couldn't think of one other fucking reason in the universe a thinking, feeling teenage vegan would migrate to this locale, but I didn't want to insult the precinct Charles Heist and his little friend called home.

"You think she went up the mountain."

"I couldn't dismiss the coincidence." Here was exactly as far as my sleuthing had gotten: Mount Baldy, one of those mountains Upland lay at the foot of, was home to Leonard Cohen's Buddhist guru, had been for a decade or so his place of retreat. I couldn't pick it out of the lineup of white-topped peaks, but for that I had the rental's GPS, or maybe now this guy.

The prospect seemed to trouble him, and he waited a long time before producing his totally unsatisfying reply. "Okay. I'll put it on my list."

I wished he'd actually exhibit a list, even if it were scrawled on a Post-it, but it was at least good to hear him invoke the word. Action items, procedures, protocols, anything but this human freak show in a red leather jacket soothing or being soothed by his comfort opossum.

Well, wasn't I the judgmental Acela-corridor elite? The bubble I'd fled, coming west, I actually carted around on my back like a snail's shell, a bubble fit for one. As my fear abated, in its place a kind of rage coursed through me, that I'd come to this absurd passage, that I'd placed Arabella in hands such as these. Or that Arabella had placed me in them; it could be seen either way. Seeming to read me again, Heist lifted his free hand from Jean's ears long enough to palm the passport into an interior pocket of the jacket. Too late for me to take it back. I was an idiot for not making a photocopy and for letting him near the original.

"Where can I find you?" he asked.

"I'm staying at the Doubletree, just down Foothill—" "Under your own name?"

"Yes, but what I was going to say is could I come with you?

Maybe I'd be able to help describe her—"

I'd stopped at a sound of clunking and rustling, directly behind me. I almost shit my pants. Another rescue animal? The front panel of the armoire slid open, and two filthy bare feet protruded sideways into the room, their ankles covered in gray leggings. The feet twisted to find the floor, and the rest of the person attached came writhing out, to crouch like the animal I'd mistaken her for.

Excerpt from The Feral Detectiveby Jonathan Lethem. Copyright 2018 by Jonathan Lethem. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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