The City & The City, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (12 ratings)


When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Bes el, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad.

But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined.

Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger.

Borlu must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.

With shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & The City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 500 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9780330534192

Other Formats



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 5 of 12 reviews.

  Previous  |  Next

Review by

I'd not read any of Mieville's books before, this is one of his most feted and it deserves the praise - it's a page-turning mystery with a brilliant idea for a setting - two cities, one rich, one poor, existing side by side with neither able to acknowledge the other's existence. It would be easy to make that too clunky, boringly worthy, but he does a great job of making the setting dominate just the right amount of the action. It held my attention right to the end, and the final explanations of what had happened were pretty well-handled. The downside is the characters, who are drawn in as much depth as is strictly necessary and no more - they aren't bad, but there's no real depth to them & so, particularly with the more minor characters, it can be easy to forget who is who, which gets particularly important towards the end. Still, even as not a big fan of fantasy stuff, I enjoyed this and would read more of Mieville's work.

Review by

This is the story of two cities Ul Qoma and Beszel. They are twin cities in a way that they are intertwined together. Their roads cross, the buildings cross and while walking on the street the people cross the ones from the other city but are trained not to see the other city people. The people who breach this rule are in Breach, a secret police who maintains the diversity of the two cities.So the story begins when the police discover a murdered woman in a shady part of Beszel. She is later identified to be a an American archeological student. In the course of his investigation the investigating detective goes over to Ul Qoma and discovers some huge secrets.The book is fast paced but somehow does not strike the right cords. The author explains the difference between the two cities quite pain stakingly and it takes away the fun of the chase which a good mystery book provides.

Review by

The fusing of different genre's; in this case fantasy and crime could in the right hands prove to be an exciting and heady mixture. China Mieville is an award winning fantasy writer and I have previously been thrilled by his two earlier steampunk novels: Perdido Street Station and The Scar. I know he can write well and with tremendous imagination and so I had no qualms in recommending The City & The City to my book club friends. They were happy to try a read in a different genre and the book had garnered a number of favourable reviews and so I thought this would be a win-win situation; the book will knock their socks off.I was anxious to read it as soon as it arrived but Lynn my wife got to it first. As soon as she had finished I asked her what she thought of it. "I enjoyed it" she said, "but it was not the best book I have read recently". Oh" I said, "You had better read it for yourself" she said.It starts brilliantly with a murder to be solved in a city that seems familiar, but also a little disquieting. Mieville is very good at creating a fantasy world and here he creates a situation slightly off kilter that sheds its secrets as the murder mystery unfolds. There are in fact two cities Beszel and Ul Qoma, which exist in the same geographical location, but the citizens of each city are indoctrinated from childhood to "unsee" the people and buildings of the other city. There are areas of each city that are totally within that city, but there are other areas that are shared. In these shared or crosshatched areas the citizens of Beszel must unsee the people and buildings of Ul Qoma. If they do not unsee or interact with people from the other city in any way then they are "in breach": a crime that usually results in their instant removal from the cities.The murder takes place in one city, but the body is dumped in the other. A cross city murder will test the resolve and ingenuity of inspector Tyador Borlu of Beszel who has been given the case. This should provide great scope for Mieville to use his imaginative powers to build on the scenario he has created. The solving of the crime takes centre stage and Mieville sharpens his writing style to move the plot forward and here I think he runs into problems. The story gets bogged down in the detective procedural elements, which are used with little imagination or originality. It becomes just another detective novel and not a particularly good one at that. The need to solve the crime seems to have stifled Mieville's imagination and so it all becomes a little...... dull. I never thought I would use the word dull for a Mieville novel, but this one is, for far too long. It all picks up towards the end with a lively finish, but it does not lift the book much above the ordinary.Most of my friends in the book club managed to read it, but nobody really liked it. We all joked about living in a cross hatched area and the ability to unsee people and so the scenario had fired our imaginations. A disappointing read for me.

Review by

Every once in a very long while a book makes we want to write an essay about it rather than a review. "The City and The City" is one of those books, but this is indeed a review rather than the essay.Our world contains some strange places where politics and human conflict create boundaries that cannot be crossed, or only with some difficulty. Sometimes those boundaries are invisible to all but the locals, sometimes they are given a physical presence and sometimes a mixture of the two. Think of the division of the island of Cyprus, where to cross between the Greek and Turkish sectors it is necessary to leave the island and travel through mainland Turkey before returning. Consider also the streets of Belfast during the time of The Troubles, the division of Berlin during the Cold War, the shifting boundaries in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war... There are, unfortunately, too many examples of such madness. And then imagine the extremes this could be taken to; but you don't need to. China Miéville has done it for you in a way that's both beautiful and chilling. Told in the first person, the novel reveals its world slowly and mysteriously. The narrator has lived in the city of Beszel[1] all his life and hence the many peculiarities it has are not initially explained but stated or assumed. The way in which the city's characteristics are made known to the reader just soon enough to allow us to follow, but slowly enough to keep us intrigued, are one of the aspects of this book that show Miéville's great skill as an author for me.Yet the book is conventional in many ways. It's a police procedural. Our narrator is a detective in his city's crime squad and a murder has been committed. Finding the perpetrators and their motives is his goal throughout, but it takes him close to the mysteries of why his home is so different from everywhere else. It's a gripping tale, well-written, which transcends the genres that it brings together.It's also very far from Miéville's other work in science fiction and fantasy; it's closest comparison might be King Rat, but that still contains many fantastical elements that are not present here. This novel takes place in early 21st-century Europe, familiar in every way but for the invention of the city in which it takes place. The characters have mobile phones, they send texts, they lose signals, they ignore their voicemail, they use computers running MS Windows and get frustrated with them for the same reasons as you or I do. It is emphatically not a science fiction or fantasy novel apart from the awesome intrusion of its invented setting.I enjoyed this book immensely. Even if you don't like the kind of things China Miéville has written before, you should try this book, It is utterly different, but demonstrates what a talented author he is and gives great promise for what he might produce in future. I'm greatly looking forward to Embassytown.[1] Yes, a footnote. "Beszel" isn't actually spelt like that. There's an accent on the 'z'. It's Beszel. Yes, it took me a long time to find out how to type that as well.

Review by

Where I got the book: my local library.50 pages into this book, I would have given it five stars. The concept's wonderful: two cities occupying the same space and time, their citizens trained from childhood to simply unsee the other city. What a great metaphor for our own cities where we walk with mental blinkers on so that we don't see the homeless or the people of that other ethnic group. One of the biggest problems for the physically or developmentally disabled in our world of equality is that people ignore them, talking to their "normal" companions as if they're not capable of giving an answer. Miéville's seen this, being the socially concerned writer that he evidently is, and does a good job of hitting us in the face with the message.So much for the concept. The writing's clear and sharp, and carries Miéville's ideas very well. All good.But by the end of the novel, the shininess had simply rubbed off for me. For one thing, the story is at heart a basic suspense/thriller with murders, cops and bad guys with guns OR ARE THEY THE BAD GUYS? It builds to a climax that really never takes off for me, possibly because the main character is experiencing it secondhand. As a story, it doesn't soar.And the characters are little more than cardboard cutouts. Even the main character, Tyador Borlú, is so shadowy as to practically disappear into the background; at what for me was the worst part of the novel where it should have been the best--the aforementioned climax--he actually does disappear and a sort of omniscient narrator voice seems to take him over. I struggled to connect with a single one of the characters and came up with nothing.What I'm seeing here is a whole lot of cleverness, and I'm a fan of the cleverness but 'tis no story, English. This novel bears a closer resemblance to a morality tale where each character represents a facet of the point the author's trying to get across rather than a living, breathing human with a heart and soul. So four points for the cleverness and the good writing, but it'll take more than this to win me over. Frankly, I'm a little disappointed.

  Previous  |  Next

Also by China Mieville   |  View all