Del Rey, New York, 2009
I own this one (thanks to students, parents and the blessed gift card).
Ever since reading Perdido Street Station and Iron Council I have admired China Mieville’s writing. When I first heard he’d written a noirish, murder mystery I wasn’t quite sure what that could mean. I hesitated, finally putting the book on hold at the library. I waited and waited. The paperback came out, I was given a gift card. I waited no longer.
Wow, this is one of those books I have difficulty writing about…
The story starts with the finding of a body on grounds of an estate in the city of Beszel. Beszel feels like an old city somewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspector Tyador Borlu is called to the scene and finds that to fully investigate this murder, he must travel to Beszel’s neighboring city, Ul Qoma. But these cities are not just neighbors. They are intertwined, on top of and crosshatched with each other, and each city’s residents must learn to unsee what they see day-to-day. There are nationalists and anarchists, politicians, students and archeologists, all wound up in a story that is fast-paced and well written.
There is not much more I can say except to suggest that you read this book. I don’t really want to tell you more, or maybe I just can’t think of how to write about it. Even finding bits to quote is difficult. One thing, it is not an easy book to read, sometimes the language itself seem to flicker in and out of perception, giving me a kind of vertigo. Or maybe it was reading it at 2 am that had me dizzy. In the acknowledgments Mieville offers his gratitude to several authors including Raymond Chandler, Franz Kafka and Bruno Schultz. He is wise and gracious to do so. This is one of the smartest and most entertaining books I have read in quite a while.