The City & the City is essentially a police procedural in a strange and interesting setting. The book opens up with our main character, Inspector Tyador Borlú, arriving onto the scene where a dead woman has been found. The story follows him as he attempts to solve the mystery.
The setting intrigued me from the moment we were given the first hint of it at the end of the first chapter. The story itself was ok. It held my interest, but I wasn’t completely absorbed by it. What made the story interesting to me was its setting and the way the setting affected the murder investigation. The problem for me was that the story wasn’t about the setting, and that was the part I was most interested in reading about. There was very little background given about it, and very few tangible explanations. It still played a huge role in the story, and was still fun to read about, but I wanted more meat.
I had a heck of a time deciding how to shelve this. I don’t like to get too complicated with my shelving. If a book crosses genres, I try to pick whichever general genre seems to fit it the best. If a book tells a mystery story in a science fiction or fantasy setting, then I’ll shelve it as either science fiction or fantasy. But this book? I don’t know. On Goodreads, the majority of members have shelved it as fantasy. That surprises me, but maybe most people took certain aspects of this story a lot more literally than I did. Science fiction doesn’t really fit either, although I’d buy into that more readily than I’d buy into the fantasy label. In the end, I decided to just stick with the one thing I was sure of and shelve it as “mystery”. :)
I have some more comments about the setting, but I’ll have to put them behind spoiler tags: