City & The City by China Mieville: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will summarize and analyze ''City and the City'' by China Mieville. This novel is about an inspector solving a crime with political ramifications.


Imagine a border between Dallas and Fort Worth that citizens of either city must have special permission to cross. In The City & the City by Chia Mieville, the cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma are European cities that share practically the same location, but the citizens of both cities have made the choice to separate and consider the other side their enemy. Tensions between the cities are so high that an ominous entity knows as Breach has been created to enforce the separation as illegal border crossing is considered one of the highest crimes. It is in this setting that a murder takes place that the protagonist, Inspector Borlu of Beszel, must solve. Let's summarize and analyze this story.

Plot Summary

Borlu is called to investigate when a group of teenagers find a woman's body under a mattress in Beszel. The victim, Mahalia Geary, was a 24-year-old doctoral student from Prince of Wales University in Canada. She was living in Ul Qoma where she worked on an archaeological dig, but has a pass to travel between the two cities. Borlu has been teamed up with Qussim Dhatt, a senior detective from Ul Quoma, to solve the case. Breach claims this case does not involve illegal border crossings and leave the matter to police.

Borlu and Dhatt discover that the victim is a believer in Orciny, which is a secret city that runs between Ul Qoma and Beszel that has become part of folklore in both cities. There are claims that Mahlaia was murdered after discovering the existence of Orciny to keep her quiet. Both Borlu and Dhatt are suspicious that the other is withholding evidence. Through the course of the investigation, the detectives also start to believe in Orciny and end up committing breach to solve the crime.

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