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“He walked with equipoise, possibly in either city. Schrödinger’s pedestrian.”

What is this book about?

Inspector Borlú, a cop in the Extreme Crime Squad, lives in Beszel when one day he’s called to a crime scene where a young girl’s body was found. She was murdered and dumped, looking like a straightforward kill, but something doesn’t add up… Borlú detects that she must have come from the other city, Ul Qoma, the city that is immediately connected to Beszel, but at the same time invisible for everyone living there. The people living in Beszel and Ul Qoma are asked to mentally unsee each other even though their cities intertwine and they literally walk the same streets, all in fear of the governing body that connects the two cities: the very creepy organisation called Breach.

Why is it boring?

No matter which way you turn it and no matter how awesome the premise is, it’s still a crime story at heart and not a great one at that. The twists and turns that are thrown at you are just not that twisty and the book hangs somewhere between a great sci-fi novel and a pageturner of a crime story and falls short at both ends. The book also seriously loses steam near the halfway mark, getting a bogged down by the mystery that needs solving.

Who would you recommend it to?

It’s still a great recommendation for anyone who likes a little sci-fi in their crime. This book is for people who enjoy the mystery but who can also appreciate the idea that Miéville has crafted for the cities. The book is written in a pretty gritty voice, channeling the old film noir, so give this a  go if you love the feel of heavy smoke clouding your murder.

Why should I read it if it’s boring?!

The idea is brilliant. I loved the two cities living side by side, willfully ignoring each other out of fear of breaching and vanishing into nothingness. The story is almost set up as magical realism, thinking that Breach could definitely be something supernatural en super scary. And when they added another city, Orciny as the city between the cities, I couldn’t wait to find out what was actually going on and screamed at the book to solve that mystery already. But as might be the case with many mysteries, it’s never as good as it could be in your imagination. The resolution seriously lacked the thought that was put into the premise, coming as an afterthought because everything in crime needs to be tidily wrapped up. I would have been fine if the book hadn’t explained every little detail to me, keeping some of its mystery intact, but explaining how it all worked broke the spell. Some mysteries just aren’t meant to be solved.

Rating: 3,5/5

Author

Esmée de Heer is head honcho over at the Bored to Death book club website, writing the daily content and making sure the site stays up and running. She’s one of the founding sisters of the book club and enjoys reading and giving unsolicited love advice.

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