The Feral Detective
Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer in the desert outside of Los Angeles. She's on a quest to find her friend's missing daughter, Arabella, and hears that Heist is preternaturally good at finding people who don't want to be found. A loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, Heist has a laconic, enigmatic nature that intrigues the sarcastic and garrulous Phoebe. It takes some convincing, but he agrees to help.The unlikely pair traverse California's stunning Inland Empire, navigating the enclaves of hippies and vagabonds who aim to live off the grid. They learn that these outcasts exist in warring tribes--the Rabbits and the Bears--and that Arabella is likely caught in the middle. As Phoebe tries to delicately extricate her, she realizes that Heist has a complicated history with these strange groups and that they're all in grave danger.Jonathan Lethem's first detective novel since Motherless Brooklyn delivers the same memorable delights: ecstatic wordplay, warm and deeply felt characters, and an offbeat sense of humor. Combined with a vision of California that is at once scruffy and magnificent, The Feral Detective emerges as a transporting, comic, and absolutely unforgettable novel.

The Feral Detective Details

TitleThe Feral Detective
Author
ReleaseNov 6th, 2018
PublisherEcco
ISBN-139780062859082
Rating
GenreMystery, Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller

The Feral Detective Review

  • Ron Charles
    January 1, 1970
    “The Feral Detective” is a brilliant noir title — right down to its misdirection. Charles Heist, the mysterious man at the center of Jonathan Lethem’s new novel, is a detective of sorts, but he isn’t feral. He’s Clint Eastwood-cool, all self-contained and aloof, capable of silencing a room with a glance. His native wildness hasn’t been domesticated so much as chained. He also keeps a live opossum in his office, but I’m getting ahead of myself.The good news is that Lethem is back in the PI game, “The Feral Detective” is a brilliant noir title — right down to its misdirection. Charles Heist, the mysterious man at the center of Jonathan Lethem’s new novel, is a detective of sorts, but he isn’t feral. He’s Clint Eastwood-cool, all self-contained and aloof, capable of silencing a room with a glance. His native wildness hasn’t been domesticated so much as chained. He also keeps a live opossum in his office, but I’m getting ahead of myself.The good news is that Lethem is back in the PI game, and there is no bad news. “The Feral Detective” is one of his nimblest novels, a plunky voyage into the traumatized soul of the Trump era. Lethem is sleuthing around as he did almost 20 years ago in “Motherless Brooklyn,” but this time he’s 3,000 miles away from New York in the mountains of Southern California. The city that never sleeps has been replaced by the desert that never speaks, and his celebrated parody of hard-boiled detective fiction is now distilled to a clear amber spirit.“The Feral Detective” is narrated by 30-something Phoebe Siegler, who quit the New York Times in a fit of rage over the election of Donald Trump. Regardless of the wisdom of that career move, Phoebe is now free to help an old friend who’s trying to locate her missing college-age daughter, Arabella. Knowing the young woman is a Leonard Cohen fanatic, Phoebe suspects that Arabella has gone to the Mount Baldy Zen Center outside Los Angeles, where Cohen. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...
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  • Hans
    January 1, 1970
    There was a stretch of time that opening a Jonathan Lethem book was akin to discovering a new room inside my own brain. Perhaps this was in part due to shared geography (Oakland/Berkeley/Bay Area, Brooklyn), though just as much of his approach of bridging genres or layering the fantastical on top of our realities. (My mind is racing through so many of his worlds including the one where the poorest people live in their cars caught in an infinite traffic jam or that love triangle with the man, the There was a stretch of time that opening a Jonathan Lethem book was akin to discovering a new room inside my own brain. Perhaps this was in part due to shared geography (Oakland/Berkeley/Bay Area, Brooklyn), though just as much of his approach of bridging genres or layering the fantastical on top of our realities. (My mind is racing through so many of his worlds including the one where the poorest people live in their cars caught in an infinite traffic jam or that love triangle with the man, the woman and the void.) In his most recent books, I have caught sparks of brilliance, but by the whole work did not meld/morph with my mind. And now we stand with The Feral Detective, which travels through new shared geographies in the high desert of California, a place I have visited at least annually for 14 years. The timeframe of the story is also one that sticks in my mind, the traumatic days of Our Dear Leader ascending into power to wreak American carnage on everyone. My mind has caught up and tortured by the minute-by-minute refresh of horrors brought on with a [redacted] man and his kakistocracy. In this time and place, my mind has been searching for a word or phrase to name and contain this MAGA-hate-shit. I did not find that word/phrase/container in Michael Wolff's sensational exploration of the Trump-storm. I skipped Comey's book...as I'm getting tired of putting myself in the position of picking at scabs that are just starting the healing process. Improbably, Lethem's book did a part of this work to name/contain our dark present world. I'm not sure why it had this effect, but it did. ("Great. Excellent. Let's examine everything from the Bear perspective. It trumps anything I could possibly say. I hate how that word is ruined, among so many other ruined things.")You cannot even get the book yet, so I don't want to give too much away. (Thanks to my local book store for giving me their Advance Reader copy. You should all buy this book at an *independent* bookstore when it is available in November 2018.) I will say that it is a mystery...and coming from Jonathan Lethem, it is also not exactly a mystery. Perhaps it is a fable. Or a zen mystery...a zen-Leonard-Cohen.There are weaknesses here--chief among them, that Lethem's narrator often feels like the-idea-of-a-woman-as-written-by-a-man rather than a woman. As a man, perhaps, I am not the right person to accurately judge this. (Though this is a nice semi-related sentence from the book: "Well, on the one hand there's mansplaining, and on the other, there's the sound of a woman quoting the mansplaining to another woman.")Beyond the political sphere, the book also captures my sense of loss for the world of the high desert. ("What I like about the desert people is that it's the only place you can have an honest conversation about the apocalypse. That's as true of the guy at the gas station on Twentynine Palms as any of us way out here.") The high desert area (Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley, Pioneertown) has radically changed in the years since I first visited. It is gentrification, but it's beyond gentrification...and a key book-ending epiphany directly speaks to this. (view spoiler)[GO BUY THE BOOK AND FIND IT FOR YOURSELF. (hide spoiler)] Again, Lethem gave voice to help name a question that has been forming in my head. There isn't an answer, but I'm starting to see the word...and that word is--again, very improbably--this book."So we fell into silence again, our headlights illuminating a tunnel through yellow dusk, our treads crossing and recrossing palimpsests of the vehicles that had gone this way, whether an hour or a month before I couldn't tell."In our present mad world, I'm thankful to have a chance to examine a few more rooms in my own mind. I'm glad that once again, Jonathan Lethem is my guide.
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  • Georgette
    January 1, 1970
    Really, really out there. Not quite sure if I absorbed everything. I loved the characters of Phoebe and Heist. Lethem has a gift for creating unique characters.
  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    The Feral Detective reminds me of those 1970s films that took place in California, involved strange esoteric groups of people living off the grid with copious drug use, often hallucinatory, that obscured the plot and everyone seemed to be under 30 yrs old. There was always a down and out detective searching for someone, usually a young woman. So, that kind of movie is this book. It is interesting as its own kind of time capsule but it’s often not enough to keep my mind from wandering. It needs a The Feral Detective reminds me of those 1970s films that took place in California, involved strange esoteric groups of people living off the grid with copious drug use, often hallucinatory, that obscured the plot and everyone seemed to be under 30 yrs old. There was always a down and out detective searching for someone, usually a young woman. So, that kind of movie is this book. It is interesting as its own kind of time capsule but it’s often not enough to keep my mind from wandering. It needs a sound track. I received my copy from the publisher through edelweiss.
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  • RMazin
    January 1, 1970
    Perhaps it is a good thing to be confused by a book. Did I like it? Maybe. Did I understand it? Maybe. But I can’t stop thinking about it!Phoebe Siegler has left NYC in the days leading up to the last Inauguration. She is on a mission to the Inland Empire of California. Her quest is to locate her friend’s teen-aged daughter, Arabella, who may have embraced an alternative life style. (Maybe propelled by the death of Leonard Cohen?). Lethe weaves in cultural references in clever ways as Phoebe rea Perhaps it is a good thing to be confused by a book. Did I like it? Maybe. Did I understand it? Maybe. But I can’t stop thinking about it!Phoebe Siegler has left NYC in the days leading up to the last Inauguration. She is on a mission to the Inland Empire of California. Her quest is to locate her friend’s teen-aged daughter, Arabella, who may have embraced an alternative life style. (Maybe propelled by the death of Leonard Cohen?). Lethe weaves in cultural references in clever ways as Phoebe realizes she is truly not in Midtown anymore.To help Phoebe navigate the California desert she enlists the aid of Charles Heist, the feral detective. This is not your average detective or a meet cute encounter. He has a pet opossum in his desk! He also has a shrouded history with the “tribal and rival” people she will encounter in the desert – the Rabbits (women) and the Bears (men). There is danger and mysticism. There is beauty and the unfolding of a city woman into a desert world – and perhaps romance!So, is this purely a detective/mystery with cultural asides for those readers who pay attention to the news? Is there some kind of allegory about the Rabbits and the Bears? Is there a subtle commentary on life lived on the margins by those who don’t /won’t fit in? Who does Charles Heist really represent? Like I say, I can’t stop thinking about it. So I recommend it to all of you needing a book that is just a good read or maybe something else.Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read this book.
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  • Katherine
    January 1, 1970
    An entertaining read but felt the characters and scenarios felt contrived. When a male author writes in the voice of a female protagonist I try to keep that out of my mind and to not read the book through that lens, to be open to the character's and author's voices. But throughout this book I couldn't help but have that awareness of Phoebe being a woman written by a man. The intermittent insertion of the 2016 election into her internal narrative/journey took me further outside of the story and o An entertaining read but felt the characters and scenarios felt contrived. When a male author writes in the voice of a female protagonist I try to keep that out of my mind and to not read the book through that lens, to be open to the character's and author's voices. But throughout this book I couldn't help but have that awareness of Phoebe being a woman written by a man. The intermittent insertion of the 2016 election into her internal narrative/journey took me further outside of the story and of a sense of Phoebe as a person as opposed to a two-dimensional representation. It's like she's going through the motions of a standard ditching-societal-convention-finding-yourself narrative arc. I enjoy Lethem's prose and it was a quick read, but I couldn't connect with the book.
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  • Billie
    January 1, 1970
    I really liked it, but I don't quite know what to think of it. It's a bit of an old-fashioned detective novel, but told from the POV of the dame who into the P.I.'s office looking for help and insists on inserting herself into the investigation rather than just leaving him to do his job. But it's also an examination? meditation? take-down? of the "us vs. them" mentality of American life post-election. It's kind of messy and occasionally rambling and sometimes wanders off the trail, which makes i I really liked it, but I don't quite know what to think of it. It's a bit of an old-fashioned detective novel, but told from the POV of the dame who into the P.I.'s office looking for help and insists on inserting herself into the investigation rather than just leaving him to do his job. But it's also an examination? meditation? take-down? of the "us vs. them" mentality of American life post-election. It's kind of messy and occasionally rambling and sometimes wanders off the trail, which makes it a lot like life. And while, in retrospect, that messiness is part of what makes the novel work, while I was reading it sometimes got frustrating.Also: YAY, Doggos!
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  • Bobbi
    January 1, 1970
    Not your average detective story, this one features Phoebe Siegler who enlists the aid of Charles Heist (the Feral Detective) in finding the missing daughter of a friend. She inserts herself into the search, which takes them from the mountains to the desert, along the way meeting some bizarre and sometimes scary people.My thanks to the author and his publisher for the ARC. The book will be available on November 6, 2018.
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  • Karlan
    January 1, 1970
    Phoebe leaves NYC for the west coast to try to locate Arabella, a friend's missing college daughter. There she finds the police uninterested so she locates a private detective to lead the search into the California desert. The witty dialog, sexy romance and exciting events make this an intriguing read. I think it's his best novel since MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN.
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  • David Allen
    January 1, 1970
    Less cerebral than usual, there's (gasp) action, not to mention intriguing characters, post-election dislocation and a firm grasp of place, California's Inland Empire. As someone who knows the novel's setting, I liked it, but some will find it too commercial. Visual enough to make for a semi-popular movie, or an Amazon series, which probably no one said about Chronic City or This Shape We're In.
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  • Bill Berger
    January 1, 1970
    What to make of this novel ? I've enjoyed all the previous Lethem books but this one leaves me cold, bored and asking whatever was he thinking. Starting out as a mystery of sorts, it soon regressed into a sort of love story. I finished it but not sure why.
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  • James Beggarly
    January 1, 1970
    Set up like an old fashioned detective story, it soon takes you to obscure societies and shows you people that you had no idea were hidden in some of the harder to reach areas of our country.
  • Chrissie
    January 1, 1970
    Read an advanced reader copy. Not sure about this one, but it was better than Lethem's last book.
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