The Feral Detective: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

I've been a big fan of Jonathan Lethem for decades now. In my heart, I'd always longed for a return to the classic Motherless Brooklyn style from early in his career. This book did that for me. Phoebe Siegler hires Feral Detective Charles Heist to find a friend's daughter. The story is narrated from Phoebe's perspective. I'm usually a little anxious when men write first person female characters, but she feels authentic and original and I didn't catch any of those "that would never happen in a woman's brain" moments that I get so frequently from other writers. I mean, really, that happens all the time. Anyway. This fast-paced novel races (sometimes literally) across an arid California landscape. Some of the best parts of the novel for me were Phoebe's reflections on the differences between lifelong New Yorkers like herself and those who are surrounded by the sheer scale of Mother Nature as people are on the West Coast. The action sequences are somewhere between Mad Max: Fury Road and Kill Bill. And our mysterious Feral Detective is a marvelous combination of sexy, mysterious, and conflicted. His own mission overlapping Phoebe's, they make an unstoppable and electric duo. 

— Kelly

November 2018 Indie Next List

“Lethem’s latest is a treat for fans and new readers alike. His personal brand of detective fiction (shrewd character descriptions, razor-sharp dialogue, and scene-setting that engages all five senses) has always been indebted to the (wild) West Coast — Hollywood specifically — so it’s unsurprising that The Feral Detective is as satisfying as his New York novels. A compelling and timely tale of why even going off the grid won’t save you from going off your rocker.”
— John Francisconi, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT


Jonathan Lethem’s first detective novel since Motherless Brooklyn

“One of America’s greatest storytellers.” —Washington Post

Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She’s looking for her friend’s missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist to help. 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. . . .

Jonathan Lethem’s first detective novel since Motherless Brooklyn, The Feral Detective is a singular achievement by one of our greatest writers.

About the Author

Jonathan Lethem is the bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Feral Detective, The Fortress of Solitude, and Motherless Brooklyn, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. He currently teaches creative writing at Pomona College in California.

Praise For…

“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.”

“Lethem [is] a master of the genre-bending detective novel and eccentric characters.”
Huffington Post

The Feral Detective investigates our haunted America in all its contemporary guises — at the edge of the city, beyond the blank desert, in the apartment next door. It’s a nimble and uncanny performance, brimming with Lethem’s trademark verve and wit.”
Colson Whitehead

“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

“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

“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

“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)

“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)

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062859068
ISBN-10: 0062859064
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: November 6th, 2018
Pages: 336
Language: English