Wednesday, January 11, 2012


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Blacklist, Sara Paretsky, G P Putnam's Sons, 2003, 415 pp

I have been reading my way through Sara Paretsky's novels and have now read everything she wrote prior to Fire Sale, 2005, the one I read first. Her books are a journey through the major issues of the past 20 years, as well as an in depth look at the best features of a true liberal.

In Blacklist, the intrepid V I Warshawski is missing her boyfriend, the journalist Morrell, who is on assignment in Afghanistan and mostly out of touch. Meanwhile she finds herself tracking down the murderer of an African American journalist in the unlikely neighborhood of some of Chicago's richest residents. Soon enough she is embroiled in the fallout from the depredations of the HUAC in the 1950s.

What I like most about Paretsky are the layers and complexity in her stories. She is able to embrace the big picture and tie together the societal elements that make up an issue, showing us that no single one is isolated but interweaves with many tendrils.

So in Blacklist you get rich people in their suburban enclaves, the old and the young, black and white, as well as communism and the Red Scare as it relates to the Patriot Act and the War on Terror. Warshawski must sort through the personal secrets of men and women of advanced age at the same time as she deals with the ill-advised shenanigans of a teenage girl trying to protect an Egyptian boy suspected of terrorism.

This novel is a smart and deep look into American life as we now live it since the attack on the Twin Towers. A page-turner that eschews any cheap tricks of sensationalism while it admits there are many ways to approach a bad situation. Since 9/11 our society has fractured into as much polarization as we had during the Vietnam War years. Paretsky's view is that a good liberal, fighting for justice, must be able to see and understand both sides of the issues.

(Blacklist is available in paperback and on CD by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it in your local indie bookstore, click on the title image above.)

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