Breakdown: A V. I. Warshawski Novel by Sara Paretsky (Putnam Adult, $26.95, 448 pages; Brilliance Audio, $36.99, 13 CDs)
Once again this reviewer has been moved to extol the virtues of audio books. Breakdown is the first of Sara Paretsky’s mystery novels that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. No doubt the choice of Susan Ericson as narrator was the key to the richness of the experience. It was almost as though V. I. Warshawski herself came to life and led the circuitous tour of Chicago and its neighboring towns during the hunt for the vampire killer.
Ms. Paretsky is a mystery writer whose works clearly reflect her loyalty to Chicago – Paretsky’s home town. Happily, the main character, V. I. Warshawski, continues to find mysteries to solve that include her group of buddies; family (niece Petra), neighbors (Mr. Contreras, Peppy and Mitch) and dear friends (Lotty and Max). Although the recurring cast of characters is wholesome and comforting, the topic of this mystery is dark and unnerving.
The central figure in the tale is Chaim Salanter, a Jewish man who is one of the world’s wealthiest persons. His past includes a boyhood escape from his homeland, Lithuania, during the Nazi occupation. Salanter is a grandfather with secrets and an ideal target for anyone who wishes to drag his name through the mud. Although this novel reaches into the past, it is firmly grounded in the present thanks to the not-so-charming antics of a group of tweens – including Salanter’s only grandchild – who are fixated on a series of books about vampires. Paretsky also adds into the mix some right-wing politicians and broadcasters who are out to get Salanter and the liberal politician he is backing, which makes this an only-in-Chicago kind of story.
It is worth noting that there is a very large Lithuanian community in Chicago, including the Lithuanian National Cemetery where this reviewer’s maternal grandparents are interred.
This audiobook was purchased by the reviewer’s husband.