Reading The City & the City by China Miéville is like walking into a dream. There has never been anything written like this.
Stark realism and a vivid murder investigation start the tale off as James Patterson might. But the story quickly builds with the unique setting where two cities co-exist alongside one another, sharing the same space though they are two different countries with contrasting laws, ruins, and mannerisms. The investigation showcases the police-life in the Eastern European country of Beszel and then crosses over into another place, where subtle details reveal a bordering country that is off limits to everyone in Beszel. The circumstances that envelop the protagonist Inspector Borlu are unpredictable and innovative.
The horrific murder mystery swirls amidst stranger clues that build on top of one another, bewildering the tenacious Inspector Borlu. The reader is taken from a point of detailed city-cop life to something that is hazy and does not quite make sense in Beszel, though it is not clear just what that is. The reader is kept in a suspenseful state of constant perplexity.
There are politics at work too, as there are military and police scouring the cities for transgressions, and looming over all is the presence of the mysterious power Breach. No citizen of the two cities, Beszel or Ul Qoma, can ever seriously breach the borders of the shared land, or they face unknown, but certainly dire consequences. Investigating a murder in such a place is downright difficult for Borlu, and as the underworld of the city is exposed in all of its scarred detail, he learns that there is more going on just beyond where he is allowed to traverse. There is something weird about the bordering lands . . . and viewing the other city could prove perilous.
By R.J. Huneke