Monday, January 4, 2010

Modern Mystery Masters - Sara Paretsky

Author: Sara Paretsky

Detective: V. I. (Victoria Iphigenia) Warshawski
Locale: primarily Chicago

First book: Indemnity Only (1982)
Latest book: Hardball (2009)

Other writings: Windy City Blues (short stories), Bleeding Kansas and Ghost Country (single novels) and Writing in an Age of Silence (non-fiction).

Sometimes it is hard to like V. I. Warshawski. She can be stubborn, self-righteous, swift to anger, with a knack of alienating even her closest friends. And for a time I stopped reading Paretsky’s books because all I wanted to do was give V. I. a swift kick.

But her latest effort, Hardball (2009), is really, really good and I can heartily recommend it. The case starts out as a missing persons investigation - V. I. is hired to find the missing son and nephew of two elderly sisters currently living out their days in an Assisted Living/Nursing Home.

The case gets quickly more and more complicated, however, and we are eventually drawn into the history of the Chicago race riots of the 1960s. Murder, police brutality, false confessions and civil rights violations (both then AND now) take center stage and Vic’s investigation comes a bit too close to home for anyone's comfort.

About the author: Sara Paretsky was born in Iowa and raised in Kansas, so naturally Paretsky’s detective fiction takes place in Chicago (primary the South Side) and stars V. I. Warshawski, a sharp-tongued, uncomfortably honest and incredibly stubborn private investigator whose family ties and work ethic complicate an already complicated career.

Paretsky is a member of Sisters in Crime and is devoted to improving the image of women in detective fiction as well as in real life. In a recent interview Paretsky admitted that ,”I’ve not been able to change the world. I’ve not been able to liberate myself, let alone 3 billion other women. Add that to the state of publishing and the fact that books may not actually exist in another five years, and I just want to lie down and pull leaves over my head.” [Interview in Mystery Scene, Holiday 2009] Meg



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