- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 5925 KB
- Print Length: 341 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0062859064
- Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 November 2018)
- Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07FGF73M1
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 53 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #196,094 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
The Feral Detective: From the Bestselling author of Motherless Brooklyn Kindle Edition
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"A funny but rage-fueled stunner. . . . Both [characters] are compelling, as are the desert setting and the vividly realized descriptions of its dwellers. . . . An unrelentingly paced tale. . . . Utterly unique and absolutely worthwhile."--Booklist (starred review)
"A highbrow mystery. . . . Fans of Motherless Brooklyn take note."--Washington Post
"Being a Jonathan Lethem novel, natural, The Feral Detective has plenty to say about American society along the way."--Newsday
"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."--Joshua Cohen
"Lethem [is] a master of the genre-bending detective novel and eccentric characters."--Huffington Post
"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."--Megan Abbott
"Surrealistic, genre-bending. . . . The personal nature of Phoebe's tectonic shift in the desert is palpable, made flesh by Lethem's linguistic alchemy. . . . A haunting tour of the gulf between the privileged and the dispossessed."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"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."--Dana Spiotta
From the Back Cover
Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a strip mall office on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She's looking for her friend's missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist as a guide. 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 . . .
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Top international reviews
Phoebe comes across as opinionated, privileged and sex starved. I wanted to read a detective novel, not a bonk buster.
And there is Heist. Quiet, enigmatic and a champion for the oppressed. Other than an abundance of facial hair, that is your lot. Dull.
The search for Arabella takes Heist and Phoebe to an area known as The Wash. Two opposing groups, the rabbits and the bears, played a role in Heist’s upbringing and are a significant part of the plot.
An unlikely resolution coupled with a leading character working through her sexual frustrations.
Not the book I was hoping for.
that the book is actually offensive.
In fact it is so bad that it retroactively diminishes all of his previous books.
Jonathan Lethem has written a book that astonishes, dismays, disappoints some, but I found it the perfect noir for our times. The book is narrated by a brash, thirty year old woman, Phoebe, who is so upset by trump’s election, she has quit her New York Times job in a rage. Her best friend’s daughter, Arabella, has gone missing from a small college in Portland, Oregon. Phoebe knows Arabella had a thing for Leonard Cohen and May have gone to the Mount Baldy Zen Center outside of LA where Cohen practiced his Buddhism. She hires a private detective, Charles Heist, aka, The Feral Detective, who is a scraggly bearded man who talks little, but seems to know his job.
The investigation takes them to a wilderness outside of LA. Clues lead to a desert where people live off the grid. There two groups are found, The Rabbits, made up of mostly women, who are more civilized, and The Bears, full of misogynistic bullies who believe in violence in a sexual nature. Sound familiar?
And, into this parallel universe of hippies and strangers Phoebe loses Heist but finds a clever group of women, while Heist is in over his head with the violence of the Bears. In this time of confusion, Phoebe finds hope. She has no idea what is happening in the real world, maybe that is for the best.
This is a book of our time with underlying vibes of them and us. Often times funny, but most times worrying. Phoebe is what keeps everything together. Her wise cracking exterior, hiding her anxiety and disgust, but she never gives up. This is the year of the woman, after all.
Recommended. prisrob 11-10-18
Phoebe sets out to find and, if necessary, rescue her best friend's missing daughter on the weakest of clues and some Leonard Cohen connections. Why Arabella's mother isn't part of the search is unspoken. Phoebe hooks up with Charlie Heist (Yep, that's his name), a desert detective with a sick possum in his desk drawer, a different runaway girl in his office and three dogs who share his Airstream teardrop trailer.
But he's not just a detective. He's a Bear. Possibly King of the Bears, a random collective of aging male drop-outs, has-beens and never-weres with a penchant for motorcycles, all things mechanical and violence. They're at least one drum short of a circle. They live in foothills and have some inarticulate connection to Mount Baldy.
On the flats are the Rabbits, women with Earth Goddess rituals and a penchant for watching the staged arena violence.
You've also got Korean survivalists with a mountain compound, a working carnival in an arroyo, off-road racers with million dollar vehicles, a common grave with a young Rabbit and a Bear curved into the bottom in a Yin and Yang symbol. And two sex scenes, one masturbatory, one mercifully brief and mostly undescribed.
All of this is out of the author's control. And Lethem just doesn't deliver an authentic female voice for Phoebe. [Trust me, no woman is still going to have her purse--including make-up kit--with her after she's hands-on helped murder a guy while the detective rips his eyeball out. A messenger bag, maybe, but not a purse.] Lethem does give Phoebe a stand-up batshit crazy soliloquy at the end but it doesn't make up for this wreck of neo-noir.
The story concerns a New Yorker named Phoebe Siegler who has come to the Claremont/Upland area of Southern California (would that we might have had a visit from the delightful Bill and Ted of neighboring San Dimas) to find the missing daughter of a friend who has disappeared from Reed College. She engages the services of Charles Heist, the ‘feral detective’ who has been raised amid the lost hippie tribes of the washes, mountains and deserts nearby. The two fall in love (perhaps in like and in lust, though Charles is a gentleman about all this) and their personal story eventually supplants the story of the search for the lost college dropout.
The story is narrated by Phoebe who is both an arrogant and annoying New Yorker and a person fully aware of the manner in which New Yorkers can be arrogant and annoying. Basically, an individual from the east coast bubble comes to a west coast (literally) tribal bubble (not an elitist bubble) and discovers that love may be more important than all of the cultural fissures that characterize our current plight (though she will continue to be appalled by the election of DJT and haunted by her past relationship with the NY Times, whose name she cannot bring herself to pronounce).
The lost hippie tribes have now been divided into female and male camps (the Rabbits and the Bears), who live amid strange, sometimes drug-addled, filth and violence.
This is not THE BIG SLEEP. Nor is it anything like the best work of today’s crime novelists. Nor, as I indicated earlier, is it anything like the beloved MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN.
What it is is not entirely clear. It feels like a vague allegory, but one which could go in multiple, conflicting directions. It could be a search for love and fundamental human values in a world turned to political ugliness. It could be a confirmation of the notion that the putatively ‘humane’ values of the sixties ultimately resulted in the creation of human detritus and took us into the waste land. It could be a meditation on the new tribalism and the manner in which those who are full-fledged members of individual tribal groups must now struggle to extricate themselves from those ultimately ugly and self-destructive associations. It could be a reflection on how our political obsessions blind us to the eternal verities and needs which are currently beyond our ken. Wherever this is heading, Phoebe is not a particularly reliable (nor a particularly attractive) guide. Charles Heist is, ultimately, a sweetie, but a somewhat lost sweetie who must be both saved and, one fears, controlled by a brash New Yorker (who has his best interests at heart, whatever he might consider those interests to be and whatever he might wish those interests to be). Which, I suppose, brings us to another possible meaning of the book: the lost within the hinterlands need the woke authority of the east coast to make them see where happiness lies (whether they wish to proceed there or not).
Bottom line: some skillful and even beautiful writing in isolated moments, but a confusing collage of literary and political voices that never charts a clear way through the moral and cultural thickets in which (JL seems to believe) we now find ourselves. The one thing of which we can be certain is that this is a book that traditional genre readers will have to force themselves to finish, as they feel a growing anger over their lost investment. Hip readers within the cultural inner sanctum will feel superior to those other readers in the process, even though those feelings appear to be in some conflict with the ultimate direction of the novel.