Hardball: A V. I. Warshawski Novel by Sara Paretsky (Putnam Adult, $26.95, 464 pages)
Author Sarah Paretsky has set her latest V.I. Warshawski mystery in familiar territory, Chicago. It’s easy to feel the atmosphere of the gritty windy city, both present and past (circa 1967) as the characters move about and around in a complicated story. This book carries the theme of family, warts and all, amid a class war, politics Chicago hardball style, and V.I.’s memories of her father who was a policeman.
The task at hand is finding a long lost son and nephew for two elderly African American ladies, one of whom is on the verge of passing on. To complicate matters, Lamont Gadsen has been missing for forty years in a plot angle that calls to mind the TV show Cold Case. He was known to be present during a 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. rally in Chicago at which a young woman was killed. To aid V.I. in her hunt for the missing man, Paretsky introduces a much younger cousin, Petra, who happens to be in Chicago working on a political campaign.
Cousin Petra gets in way over her head when she attempts to be a junior detective. V.I. does not play favorites when she’s on a case as evidenced by her curt comments to Petra: “You’re not a very convincing liar, Petra. You don’t have the guts to come into a burned-out building on your own. Who was with you?”
Reading this book – the 13th in the Detective Warshawski series – is like catching up with a long-time acquaintance. Not a friend mind you, an acquaintance. V.I. as she prefers – not Vicki or Victoria and only occasionally Vic – is portrayed once again as a brusque, nearly unisex character with conflicted identity issues. Even at the age of 50, she’s far too tough on herself. V.I. does some considerable soul searching while assuming the persona of a champion whose mission it is to right injustice.
The tale gets bogged down a bit with the intricacies of the multiple plot lines. The reader may become a bit confused with the large cast of characters. Yet halfway through the book Paretsky settles into her familiar and enjoyable rhythmic pace permitting V.I. to do what it is she does best – solve the mystery.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.