GHOST COUNTRY by Sara Paretsky

GHOST COUNTRY

KIRKUS REVIEW

The Holy Spirit, or someone very like her, appears on the mean Chicago streets usually watched over by Paretsky’s detective V.I. Warshawski (Windy City Blues, 1995, etc.)--and, brother, is she in a state. If ever a world needed a lift, it’s the environs of Midwest Hospital, where bean-counters have reduced dedicated psychiatric residents like Dr. Hector Tammuz to drug-dispensing slot machines and the neighborhood streets surrounding the Orleans Street Church and Hagar’s House, its shelter for homeless women, teem with the poor, the hopeless, and the dispensers of those other drugs. The ranks of the downtrodden have been swelled by the addition of Luisa Montcrief (né Janice Minsky), an alcoholic diva who’s fallen a long way from Verdi, and Mara Stonds, the ugly-duckling granddaughter of legendary neurosurgeon Dr. Abraham Stonds. Both women, stung by the retributive preaching of Promise Keeper look-alike Rafe Lowrie at Orleans Street, are drawn instead to Madeleine Carter, who swears that she saw the Blessed Virgin on the concrete wall of the Hotel Pleiades on Underground Wacker, and that the rust stains on the wall are the Virgin’s blood. Throughout her impassioned opening scenes, Paretsky limns a world hurting for redemption despite the best efforts of its (overwhelmingly male) leaders to buy it off. But although she skillfully prepares for the advent of her savior, the aphasic street-person Starr, Paretsky isn’t quite up to the task of breathing life into this psychotic saint, “the most urgently alive person Mara had ever met,” as she goes about curing the sick, turning grape juice into wine, and raising the dead before meeting her own violent death and mysterious resurrection. It’s disappointing to find that Starr, so shadowy and indistinct herself, lives in her far more vivid followers mainly as a rallying point for feminist social reform--which comes down here to settling scores with men. Still, Paretsky’s ambitious, ambiguously religious novel earns an honorable place in the gallery of straight fiction by mystery writers from P.D. James’s Innocent Blood to Walter Mosley’s RL’s Dream.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-29933-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998




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Kirkus Interview
Sara Paretsky
author of BRUSH BACK
July 28, 2015

No one would accuse V. I. Warshawski of backing down from a fight, but there are a few she’d be happy to avoid. High on that list is tangling with Chicago political bosses. Yet that’s precisely what she ends up doing when she responds to Frank Guzzo’s plea for help in Brush Back, the latest thriller from bestselling author Sara Paretsky. For six stormy weeks back in high school, V.I. thought she was in love with Frank. He broke up with her, she went off to college, he started driving trucks for Bagby Haulage. She forgot about him until the day his mother was convicted of bludgeoning his kid sister, Annie, to death. Stella Guzzo was an angry, uncooperative prisoner and did a full 25 years for her daughter’s murder. Newly released from prison, Stella is looking for exoneration, so Frank asks V.I. for help. “Paretsky, who plots more conscientiously than anyone else in the field, digs deep, then deeper, into past and present until all is revealed,” our reviewer writes. View video >

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