Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dope - Sara Gran

Given the title, this novel was not quite what I expected. I knew it was about a former drug addict (Josephine) who while struggling to keep clean finds herself enveloped in a mystery that takes her to the seedy back alleys of her past. I did not realize that the book takes place in the 1950s and that it is crime noir, written just several years ago, with a female protagonist. Hard-boiled detective writing has a certain feel to it - and while I'm reading it, I can't help but hear a voice-over of the Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade variety. But, once I mentally put myself into that space, this book really delivered. Josephine is called in by a wealthy couple who are looking for their missing daughter. They suspect that she is a drug addict, and that given Josephine's past, she will have the connections to bring their daughter home to them. As Josephine considers whether to take the money and run, she finds that there are cons around every corner, giving her misinformation and protecting others for reasons she can't quite understand. Josephine is a horrible detective - she only follows leads that others suggest, and when she finally tracks down the pimp boyfriend of the girl she's looking for, she outright asks him, "Where's [the girl]? Her parents paid me to find her." As if that would ever illicit the information she was looking for. But, after all she's a recovering dope addict, not a detective, and that's kind of the point. She misses the treachery right in front of her, and in trying to do good, ends up worse off than ever. Dope has all the necessary noir components - a quick fun twist and turn filled read.

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