When I first got the book I was excited. I love murder mystery stories with lead detectives like Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. Tyador Borlu is the head investigator and narrator of The City and The City. He is tasked to find the murderer of Mahalia Geary, a P.H.D. student with many enemies. Her body was found near the border of the two main Cities in Beszel territory. The problem that Borlu faces during this investigation is breach. The best way I can explain breach is the illegal interaction and migration between the cities of Ul Qoma and Beszel. A person within Beszel can not look at or interact with anyone or anything in the city of Ul Qoma. The same applies for those in Ul Qoma in regards to Beszel. If you look at something in the other city, you must “unsee” it. Failure to follow these rules will invoke breach and possible incarceration in breach jail. No one knows what happens to those who invoke breach, which makes the entity even scarier. Borlu believes that someone has breached while committing the murder of Mahalia. This becomes a problem as he cannot freely investigate the two cities without the permission of the oversight committee. I liked Borlu’s Investigative characteristics. Like many great detectives in mystery novels, his curiosity and quick wit greatly helps his investigation. We can also see how good of a detective he really is with the added restrictions breach imposes. He can quickly think up different scenarios and suspects for the investigation throughout the story. These skills ultimately leads to the identity of the true killer near the end of the book.
I also like the setting of The City and The City. The two neighboring cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma are different in many ways. From fashion to technology to architecture, China Mieville puts great detail into how the cities look and function. Ul Qoma is cleaner, colorful, and advanced compared to the dirty and and somewhat bland Beszel. The way Mieville also writes about the cities different groups and history builds culture that may not be seen in other murder mystery books.
One thing I didn’t like about the book was dialogue. There will be times when you don’t know who’s talking or if Borlu is narrating. The use of certain language also makes the text sometimes confusing to understand. It also seemed like the story became rushed after the breach section of the book. Too many new characters and plot points were added during the final chapters of the book. This made the breach section and the end of the book somewhat confusing to understand.