Wednesday, March 09, 2016

BREAKDOWN






Breakdown, Sara Paretsky, G P Putnam's Sons, 2012, 431 pp


Summary from Goodreads: Carmilla, Queen of the Night, is a shape-shifting raven whose fictional exploits thrill girls all over the world. When tweens in Chicago's Carmilla Club hold an initiation ritual in an abandoned cemetery, they stumble on an actual corpse, a man stabbed through the heart in a vampire-style slaying.

The girls include daughters of some of Chicago's most powerful families: the grandfather of one, Chaim Salanter, is among the world's weathiest men; the mother of another, Sophy Durango, is running for the United States Senate.

For V.I. Warshawski, the questions multiply faster than the answers. Is the killing linked to a hostile media campaign against Sophy Durango? Or to Chaim Salanter's childhood in Nazi-occupied Lithuania? As V.I. struggles to answer these questions, she finds herself fighting enemies who are no less terrifying for being all too human.
 
 
My Review:
Sara Paretsky's 12th novel featuring private investigator V I Warshawski begins in a graveyard. While a group of tween girls hold a ritual centered around the shape-shifting heroine from a fantasy series they love, they come across a dead man stabbed through the heart. Instantly you are in the world of girls, cell phones, and secrets.
 
Enter V I, who must protect the girls, find the murderer, keep her young cousin from getting fired, and stay alive. She becomes embroiled with the rich, the politicians, the shady, and (as you may have suspected due to the title) the mentally ill.
 
Paretsky's liberal views are on full display but so are her emotions and her smarts. Because V I is in her 50s now, she has to husband her strength but even though the internet sometimes takes the place of physical investigations, it is also a danger because the bad guys are using it as well. Text messages can be hacked. Cell phones reveal any user's location. She also has to watch out for a rival investigator who is as crooked as they come.
 
Anyone who has read Paretsky knows what a long list of characters people her tales (I make my own list as I read) but she has also reached a new level in Breakdown: super tight plotting and fewer red herrings make this one easier to follow than some of her earlier books. The result is an increase in suspense with not a single lull in the action. V I's very savvy use of the media, that now rules our world, to expose the criminals is evidence that while the author was in her mid-60s when she wrote the book, she is as up-to-the-minute with the modern world as her youngest characters.
 
That brings me to my last point. The first book in the V I Warshawski series, Indemnity Only, was published in 1982. It involves corruption in the Unions, banks, and insurance companies. Hot topics at the time. All the books are set in Chicago. Reading them in the order they were written, as I have done, delivers a consecutive history of the city, spanning over thirty years. Quite a feat if you ask me.
 
 
(Breakdown is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)
 
 

10 comments:

  1. No doubt, quite a feat. Which is your favorite one in the series and why?

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    1. Good question. I have liked all of them, but the first one I read, Fire Sale (http://keepthewisdom.blogspot.com/2006/01/fire-sale.html), which I read for a reading group I was in at the time, stands out. It was the book by which I discovered her and I had never read a mystery/crime book by a woman writer that was anything like it. So I resolved to read the entire series and I only have two more to go, that is until she publishes another one.

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  2. Your last paragraph makes a very good point. Paretsky's plots always address societal issues of their times, sometimes relating them to events of the past. Thus, she has provided us with a running history of our times as seen through the eyes of her unique character, V.I. Warshawski. And her writing just gets better and better, the plotting tighter with each new entry. There really isn't a dud to be found - and I've read them all.

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    1. Thank you Dorothy. She has done so much herself and for other female crime writers. I admire her immensely.

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  3. Tami Hoag also has a series in which she makes do with the technology available at the time, which makes for an interesting reading.

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    1. Thanks Carmen. I have heard of her but never read her. I will put her on the list of mystery authors to check out after I finish Paretsky, Evanovich and Grafton -:)

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  4. Plot sounds interesting! Have a lovely weekend Judy ; -)

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  5. I haven't read a Sara Paretsky for quite a while - thanks for the review Judy! Cheers from Carole's Chatter

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    1. Thanks for visiting Carole!

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