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New novel featuring Claire DeWitt not a routine crime solver

This cover image released by Atria shows "The Infinite Blacktop," by Sara Gran. (Atria via AP)

“The Infinite Blacktop” (Atria), by Sara Gran

Claire DeWitt is a private detective not always easy to like.

She steals cars. She steals purses. She pops stolen pills. Without warning, she delivers quick, brutal hits and kicks bad folks when they’re already down. But this cocky, unhappy, clever and driven heroine of Sara Gran’s mystery series will eventually solve a crime no one else could — and berate herself for detective work still unfinished.

In the end, you want her on your side.

“The Infinite Blacktop,” Gran’s third Claire DeWitt detective novel, opens in Oakland, California, in 2011 with a fast-paced round of crime-scene fright after an attempt on Claire’s life. It then moves back and forth among three different times, places and events: 1985-86 Brooklyn, when Claire is a teenager and a friend goes missing; 1999 Los Angeles, when an art world death opens a door for her career; and 2011 Oakland, when Claire is in the crosshairs of a killer.

A comic book heroine, the fictional teen detective Cynthia Silverton, oddly becomes a key figure in the multilevel mystery that Claire is out to solve. Adding to this element, the various crimes being probed are given names as if from a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys series, such as “The Clue of the Golden Butterfly” or “The Case of the Stolen Seashell.”

Claire is devoted to a French detective, Jacques Silette, who wrote a book, “Detection.” For the teenage Claire, the book is a Rosetta Stone for solving mysteries. As the adult Claire sorts through deadly puzzles, Silette is a key figure and resource.

By adding a comic-book teen detective and an elegant French investigator to the Claire DeWitt mystery mix, Gran turns “The Infinite Blacktop” into a thriller that is no ordinary, by-the-book crime procedural.

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