The Feral Detective

The Feral Detective

A Novel

Book - 2018
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Convincing an enigmatic loner to help her search for a friend's missing daughter, Phoebe traverses the outskirts of California's stunning Inland Empire, where she discovers her companion's complicated relationship with warring tribes of outcasts.
Publisher: New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062859068
Branch Call Number: MYSTERY LETHEM 2018
Characteristics: 326 pages ; 24 cm


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Nov 17, 2019

This is the first book I've read by Johnathan Lethem and I was shocked at how badly written it was. Is it supposed to be funny? Because it isn't. The main character is incredibly annoying - someone you keep wanting to avoid. The milieu is ridiculously cliched and the violence is both offputting and not interesting at all. I finished it only becaue I was fascinated by how bad it was and wanted to see if at some point it veered off into brilliance. It did not.

May 09, 2019

I understand people's complaints about this book.
I thought chapter 1 should have been omitted. I think Lethem's writing is very good, but the unrelenting, dirge-like fever dream of the novel stopped me about 2/3 through.

Apr 20, 2019

A stunning combination of poor writing and poor thinking from someone from whom we should have higher expectations. Run away now, or run away screaming later.

Apr 04, 2019

I don't have a frame of reference for this author's work, since I haven't read any of his other works. I found the novel very readable in a fever dream kind of way, exposing both the anger of many Americans under the shadow of Trump's election win, and the possibility that the anger is intrinsic to humans.

I don't find the narrator's feminine sexual nature credible, but like the author, I'm a male- it seemed like 'Dear Penthouse" sensibility. No matter, the sex is a small part of the overall tale.

I did enjoy the non linear story telling. Again, the narrator is almost incapacitated by anger, and the male lead is only violent, rarely anger. The Bears and Rabbits are archetypes of male and female and barely fleshed out. But the characters in the each tribe are interesting. I'd be interested in more Feral Detective novels, with or without the female narrator.

Feb 17, 2019

JL has said this book was written quickly, and it really shows. The old adage "write what you know" makes me wonder... does JL even know any women? Phoebe has to be the least successful woman protagonist written by a man in many years. She seems like a moronic and horny18 year old male, not a 35 year old woman veteran of the NYTimes. The plot is preposterous - at best - and reads like a first draft in a low-rent writing workshop. Hard to believe the publisher read anything but the author's name, and as for the editing... well, I once edited a book written by a friend and it was so incredibly badly written I simply gave up. Apparently this one did, too.
Just before starting Feral, I finished Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies) and enjoyed the women characters and their relationships immensely. The contrast was striking, and made Feral seem even more appalling. There wasn't a single interaction between Phoebe and another woman (we won't even consider how she relates to men) that seemed even vaguely plausible.
Lethem needs to put some red meat back in his diet, or resist submitting such drivel for publication. Interesting that of the 4 blurbs on the back cover, I had never heard of 3 of the authors - and I read a LOT, 150-200 books a year for the last 5 decades at least.

Hillsboro_BrianS Jan 24, 2019

A lot of folks (myself included) are going to want to compare "The Feral Detective" to "Motherless Brooklyn," because of the hype created around Lethem's return to the mystery genre. And that's unfortunate, because "Feral" is good, but located within a wildly different America than of "Motherless." Where "Motherless" reflects the manic exuberance and idealism of the late 90s tech bubble, "Feral" exists in those shell-shocked moments between Trump's election night upset and the “American Carnage” of his presidential inauguration. In other words, "Feral" ain't a joy ride, but fans of Lethem will not be disappointed.

Jan 07, 2019

The first three chapters were unintelligible and there could not have been an editor involved. One word sentences-too much like a movie script than a novel.

Jan 01, 2019

Quirky, albeit entertaining! I found this mystery detective story / rescue mission took bends in the road up a mountain to hidden cult followers. Hidden is the operative word. The teenager gone missing was hidden among a strange group. Heist is living with a hidden past. All searching for a hidden part of themselves. Raw, funny writing. "They put her in a feather crown....with necklace of claws across her breasts. The ornaments were maybe nothing more than chicken feet salvaged from a barbecue picnic, but the effect was ominous as sh%#t."

ArapahoeAnnaL Dec 22, 2018

It seems Lethem is giving up on America for now, disgusted by our deep societal divisions and shallow responses. So the parts of the book that refer to contemporary politics let me cold. However, the writing, the mystery, the characters, and the love story are great!

Skip this one.

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