As soon as you realize that the narrator is a drug-abusing detective who employs unorthodox methods and has questionable morals, you know that this is no standard whodunit—and that the protagonist is no Nancy Drew.
Thirtysomething Claire DeWitt stumbles through life, using one-night stands and cocaine to help her mask the pain she’s felt since her childhood best friend disappeared without a trace. Claire is a depressed loner, and any relationships she has are fractured. Despite her shambles of a personal life, Claire knows that she is a born detective, but she also knows that finding the truth of a mystery can break a person. Her working bible is a book called Detection by the fictional detective Jacques Silette, though Silette was never able to solve his own daughter’s disappearance.
Claire’s former boyfriend, Paul, a musician, is murdered in what police feel is a robbery gone wrong (several of his treasured guitars are missing). Claire, however, knows in her bones that there is more to the story. But before she solves the case, she needs to face her feelings for Paul head-on.
As Claire immerses herself in Paul’s life, the answers unfold slowly, though the story never drags. The narrative also flashes back in time to Claire’s teenage years when she and her now-missing best friend started reading mystery novels and becoming junior sleuths, trying to locate their missing friend, Chloe.
Bohemian Highway is dark and raw, some scenes are disturbing, and Claire is so complex that she often doesn’t make sense even to herself. This, however, is in contrast with the author’s lyrical and often insightful prose. Case in point: “Mysteries never end,” writes Gran, “And we solve them anyway, knowing we are solving both everything and nothing.... But this is the piece of life we have been given authority over, nothing else; and while we may ask why over and over, no one yet has been given an answer.” This book is a thinking person’s mystery novel, rooted in a little bit of philosophy about solving mysteries. This is the second book in a series; the first one, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, was well-received by readers and critics alike.