Sara Paretsky


""...a prime example of how quality crime can be written well and with yet contain a social message on the state of urban America.""


When VI Warshawski is asked to find a teenager who went missing during the civil rights riots in 1967, her first instinct is to refuse the case. Not only has too much time elapsed since the disappearance but the mother and aunt of the boy remain tight lipped about the circumstances of the vanishing. Was Lamont Gadsden a member of the infamous Anacondas gang for example? As usual, however, the case piques Warshawski's interest and she begins to peel away it's layers.

There are people who have never forgotten the young Lamont and are willing to hand over the little information that they have. However, attacks on her life and the death of an elderly nun soon convince her that there are people still alive today with a vested interest in keeping secret the truth about Lamont's disappearance.

When Petra, her glamorous cousin from Kansas, arrives in Chicago as a political intern secrets begin to emerge about Warshawski's family that she finds hard to credit. Can her moral policeman father really have been the bent cop that others are making him out to be? Determined to restore her father's reputation and find the elusive Petra, Warshawski is also forced to confront the buried grief for the loss of her mother who died when she was a teenager.

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Sara Paretsky is a writer whose novels have developed and grown over the years. Whilst her early books were well written slices of Chicago criminality, over the years she has developed a keen sense of social justice and her novels have portrayed the issues of poverty, drug abuse and political corruption that allow the low life of Chicago to flourish. But it is all done with an air of intelligence so that the reader never feels preached at or deliberately educated on the subject. The character of VI Warshawski does not apparently age in the books which is a mixed blessing. On one hand it allows the detective to go about her investigations with her trademark swagger and energy which would be hard to believe in an older detective. However, for Paretsky's loyal readers, we are beginning to overtake Warshawski in age and I don't think it would detract from the books to let her wonderful detective begin to feel her age a little too! This is a substantial, well written book from one of America's leading crime writers. Even those new to Sara Paretsky could start with this novel as it is a prime example of how quality crime can be written well and with yet contain a social message on the state of urban America.

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