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3 of the summer's best new mystery novels

As the temperatures rise, so does the fictional body count. Our summer mystery roundup offers three stylish literary efforts by writers new to the genre.

By Yvonne Zipp

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1. Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Sarah Gran

"Millennium" fans looking for a new heroine: Meet Claire DeWitt. She’s got the damaged childhood, the antisocial habits and disregard for the law, and the tattoos. (Twelve, to be precise, including the initials of her best friend, who disappeared one night when they were teenagers.) Instead of Lisbeth Salandar's computers, though, Claire relies on dreams, the I Ching, and “Detection”by Jacques Silette, a legendary French detective who was never able to solve the biggest mystery of his own life: the disappearance of his young daughter. Despite her almost-psychic abilities of deduction, hard-drinking Claire is a spiritual heir of Philip Marlowe and other loners solving cold-hearted crimes in warm climates.

Set in New Orleans during the months after hurricane Katrina, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, is populated by the missing – from the prosecutor Claire was hired to find, who disappeared days after the levees burst, to Claire's own mentor, who was gunned down years earlier. “The first thing you need to know about being a detective,” Constance, who had been a student of Silette, told Claire, “is that no one will ever like you again … Your friends will never relax around you. Your family will shut you out. The police, of course, will loathe you. Your clients will never forgive you for telling them the truth. Everyone pretends they want their mysteries solved but no one does.”

Sara Gran (“Dope”) wrote urban noir before turning to mystery, and her descriptions of dead-eyed teen drug dealers in matching white tanks and baggy jeans have the precision of HBO's “The Wire”: “They were as similar as Wall Street brokers in gray flannel suits or white-coated doctors in a hospital or Marines in uniform – and like those other people in uniform, their sameness subdued something in them, made them forget a piece of themselves.”

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