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Sara Paretsky’s Hardball

Hardball is another in Paretsky’s long-running series of V.I. Warshawski mysteries, and it lives up to the reputation of the series for being a hard-driven, exciting tale.

If I have any complaint about this 446 pages of Chicago political and police intrigue it is that the first 175 pages or so were much slower-paced than the usual Paretsky mystery and I nearly gave up.  I realized as things got more dramatic and fast-paced toward the middle of the book that the first part of the story was necessary to setting up the rest.  I could race through to the end because the first part was so carefully set up.  By careful reading in the first part of the book there are clues that are important to discovering how it all ends.

Basically, PI Vic Warshawski has taken on the case of a couple of elderly sisters in Chicago’s south side who want to find out what happened to the son and nephew of these ladies. Lamont Gadsden disappeared during or shortly after the great show storm of 1967 right after it became known that he had some pictures of the march and riots from 1966’s Martin Luther King appearance in Chicago that could exonerate one of his friends who had been framed for the murder of a female marcher.  There are hints that the police in Vic’s father’s old precint may have been involved in framing Gadsden’s friend– maybe even her dad had been involved.

Vic’s young cousin, Petra, comes to Chicago from Kansas City to work on the campaign of one of the Chicago political insiders, Brian Krumas, and after awhile Petra takes particular interest in following Vic to some of the old homestead sites around Chicago looking for old family momentos and photos. Some of the old members of Vic’s dad’s precint are also associated with the campaign, and Petra’s dad also seems to know some of the guys associated with Krumas, which is how she got involved in the campaign.

As the story proceeds some of the clues that are among Vic’s family momentos, as well as things that the elderly sisters have to share with Vic all come together to culminate in a sordid tale of Chicago’s racist and corrupt past and present.  Vic and Petra barely survive to tell the tale.  In the end it looks as if Vic may have a protoge who will provide a counterbalance to her own tactless personality in the young Petra.  We’ll have to see in future stories whether Paretsky chooses to keep Petra in the storyline.

This is a great read that winds the reader further and further into the plot to an exciting finish.  There are lots of interesting details about Chicago’s role in the civil rights movement to make the mystery even more socially and historically relevant.


Liz Nichols

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