Monday, January 02, 2006


Fire Sale, Sara Paretsky, GP Putnam's Sons, 2005, 402pp

Thanks to belonging to several reading groups, I have been reading mystery/crime fiction. In the past I have had a snobbish attitude toward this genre (after reading a bunch of thrillers in the 80s), probably similar to the attitude some readers have towards sci-fi. In fact, I have found some of these books a welcome relief from a reading diet heavy in literary fiction and 1940s novels. Some are better than others of course, and Sara Paretsky's latest book falls on the better side.

V I Warshawsky, daughter of a Polish father and an Italian mother, raised in southside Chicago, is the intrepid PI of Paretesky's books. She is around 40 in Fire Sale, is single and has a lover who is recovering from wounds received while covering the Afghanistan invasion by the United States. So we are right up in contemporary times. Everyone has cell phones and she even brings in blogs!

Back in V I's old neighborhood, a factory bursts into fire just as she is about to enter it at midnight. She is doing an investigation but ends up in the hospital. This is a repeating pattern throughout the story. There is a rich family with a partriatch who also grew up in these slums, but now heads an empire of stores similar to WalMart.

So people die, the "WalMart" family is suspicious and V I solves it all while substituting at her old highschool as basketball coach for the female students. Plenty of issues are covered: poverty, bad schools, religion, gangs, teens, foreign sweatshops and greedy rich people.Entertaining for sure and how odd to be right back in southside Chicago after the Barack Obama book.

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