Summary and book reviews of The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem

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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  • Published:
    Nov 2018, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Book Summary

Jonathan Lethem's first detective novel since Motherless Brooklyn.

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 navigate the enclaves of desert-dwelling vagabonds and find that Arabella is in serious trouble—caught in the middle of a violent standoff that only Heist, mysteriously, can end. Phoebe's trip to the desert was always going to be strange, but it was never supposed to be dangerous. ...

Jonathan Lethem's first detective novel since Motherless Brooklyn, The Feral Detective is a singular achievement by one of our greatest writers.

3

A voice behind the brass # 8 called, "It's open." I pushed in. The usual law of glaring sunlight applied, so I was blinded in the gloom. There wasn't a foyer or waiting area, let alone a secretary screening his appointments. I'd lurched into the so-called suite, a large, cluttered, murky space that grew darker when the voice said "Close the door" and I obeyed. In the instant I'd had to discern outlines, I made out the boat-sized desk, the figure behind it, the shapes along the walls, all inanimate. No other bodies waiting in ambush, I felt reasonably sure. I could be back through the door before he'd be around the desk. I had pepper spray and a tiny compressed-air klaxon horn in my purse. I'd never used either one, and the klaxon was maybe a joke.

"Phoebe Siegler?" The only lamp in the room sat on the desk. All I saw was jeans and boots. The lamp had for company only a landline, a heavy black office phone. No computer.

"Sorry I'm late," I said, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I fell in love with Jonathan Lethem's writing when I read Motherless Brooklyn, twice. And while I have loved all of his novels since, I've really been waiting for another mystery. Happily. Ecstatically. This is it! The one I've been waiting for. Okay. It's not quite a mystery in the traditional sense, but that is Lethem's ultimate charm. The plot isn't so much a whodunit as it is a whoisit...   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

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Media Reviews

The Washington Post
A highbrow mystery . . . Fans of Motherless Brooklyn take note

The Huffington Post
Lethem [is] a master of the genre-bending detective novel and eccentric characters.

Booklist
Starred Review. A funny but rage-fueled stunner... Utterly unique and absolutely worthwhile.

Kirkus Reviews
Surrealistic, genre-bending ... A haunting tour of the gulf between the privileged and the dispossessed.

Author Blurb Colson Whitehead
The Feral Detective investigates our haunted America in all its contemporary guises — at the edge of the city, beyond the blank desert, in the apartment next door. It's a nimble and uncanny performance, brimming with Lethem's trademark verve and wit.

Author Blurb Megan Abbott
Like The Crying of Lot 49 as written and directed by Elaine May, The Feral Detective is hilarious and terrifying and wrenching. Phoebe is one of the grandest, funniest heroes I've come upon in a long time.

Author Blurb Dana Spiotta
Wild, urgent, and very funny. As always, Lethem writes knowingly and brilliantly about weird, off-the-grid, wayward America. In his ever-more-electric prose, he illuminates both the barbarity and the beauty.

Author Blurb Joshua Cohen
I want to read a shelf of Heist. I want to make him my new Travis McGee, and that's, seriously, the highest praise I know.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Living Off the Grid

A house in the eco-friendly off-grid community of Matavenero in SpainIn Jonathan Lethem's The Feral Detective, New York City journalist Phoebe Siegler ventures into the often perilous world of people living a hardscrabble existence in a California mountain range. She is trying to find a college-age girl who may have become enthralled with the notion of a life independent of modern society and its demanding constraints. On first blush it does sound like an ideal set-up. No job. No mortgage or car payment. Just sun and rain and the stars on high as tawny-skinned children dressed in homespun jumpsuits frolic with one's own livestock, roaming freely and munching on homegrown celery root and lettuce. This type of life – far from modern conveniences such as microwaves, televisions, hot-and-cold ...

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