Hardball Hardball by Sara Paretsky

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I won one of the Goodreads giveaways and received an advance copy of Hardball in the mail in September–my first Sara Paretsky novel! I still consider myself new to the mystery genre (most of it limited to Agatha Christie books), and so was not familiar with the V.I. Warshawski series.

This book is a good introduction, since Vic makes sure to strew background info throughout the narrative. It’s done pretty matter-of-factly, and sometimes gave me the impression that the author (or narrator) was aware of the need to catch new readers up to speed. But do we really need to know that she’s divorced? It doesn’t further the plot any.

The plot was intricate, and unfolded with a fine pacing, the way a movie version might play out. The people in this book are all kinds–street bums and politicians, artists and racists. It is one the pleasures about this book–the many people who are involved. That, and the deeper underlying story of the lives of Chicago blacks during a riotous time of racial conflict. I wished that had been explored more deeply. But as the narrator was only 9 then, and a child of a cop, there was only so much she knew. The story of Lamont Gadsden, the missing teenager, was infinitely more interesting and real than anything Vic was doing.

But at times, Vic acts as tour guide to her city, going on about the slowness of traffic on the highway, and where things used to be, how they used to be. It’s too much distraction for a book already crammed full of unnecessaries: the vacation to Italy, a blockhead cousin, her PDAs and Apple computers. I sensed the story was trying very hard to be modern, by telling us what brand this or that is–none of which serves to illustrate anything about the story or people. There are several mentions (but no reflections)of Barak Obama as President, which is annoying in a book about race relations, and it only serves to date the book.

What kept me up all night reading it was the chase–once Petra’s gone, and the bad guys have Vic on the run, then it’s full-tilt suspense–through to the end.

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