by China Mieville
Opening line--"I could not see the street or much of the estate."
From the front flap: "When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined."
This is a book which I appreciate, but which I don't love. There are parts of it that I love. The description of Mahalia's book: "Ink flickers, most pages annotated in tiny scrawl: red, black, and blue. Mahalia had written in an extra-fine nib, and her notes were like tangled hair, years of annotations of the occult thesis." The last quarter or so of the book is the strongest, in my opinion, since we finally get some answers and the setting becomes more magical.
I found the trick of the setting (the city, the city and the &, if you will) to be very effectively done. The moment when Borlu enters Ul Qoma seemed so exactly right somehow, as did the moment when I first realized exactly what was happening (it's interesting that Mieville gives the reader a chance to figure it out on their own, before telling us explicitly what's going on).
And yet, as I said, I didn't love the book. It's partly because almost none of the characters are very sympathetic. Borlu and his allies in the two police forces come the closest, but by the end of the book the reader is forced to ask if we can still like Borlu, if we can still trust him.
However, I don't see the story as entirely grim. Borlu has a great love for Beszel, despite its squalor and dilapidation. And there is a kind of wonder in the description of the two cities.
Book source: public library
Book information: Ballantine, 2009; adult