Sara Paretsky | Women & Children First | Literary Events | Chicago Reader

Sara Paretsky Recommended

When: Sun., Dec. 13, 5:30 p.m. 2009

Paretsky reads from her latest V.I. Warshawski novel, Hardball. Joint appearance with Libby Fischer Hellmann. In 1982, Chicago's Sara Paretsky invented V.I. "Vic" Warshawski, one of the first hard-boiled female PIs, and a franchise was born. Now Warshawski's starring in her 13th mystery, and both she and her maker are at the top of their form. Hardball (Putnam) features Paretsky's characteristic gritty settings--a rich Chicago landscape stretching from the far south side to Back of the Yards, Bucktown, and Navy Pier--and deft, insightful reflections on gentrification and urban decline. Also in the mix: a timely imbroglio involving politics, industry, law enforcement, and the city's sordid racial legacy, familiar enough to most Chicagoans but ratcheted up a notch for dramatic effect. Drawing on Paretsky's own experience as a civil-rights activist and community organizer (documented in her 2007 memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence), the case carries echoes dating back to Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1966 march in Marquette Park and the white riot it triggered. While Paretsky's social consciousness clearly informs her work, she never steps up on the soapbox; Warshawski's feminism, too, is more matter-of-fact than in-your-face. Fans of the series should welcome Vic's return after a long absence (the 12th Warshawski story, Fire Sale, was published back in 2005) and enjoy her continued development as a character (Paretsky ages her in real time); new readers should find the complex, well-crafted caper accessible and instantly engaging. --Kathie Bergquist

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