HARDBALL by Sara Paretsky


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V.I. Warshawski’s 13th case (Fire Sale, 2005, etc.) drags her back to Chicago’s tumultuous summer of 1966.

Pastor Karen Lennon, chaplain to Lionsgate Manor nursing home, wants V.I. to help elderly Ella Gadsden and her ailing sister Claudia Ardenne with a little pro bono work. The assignment—track down Ella’s missing son Lamont—would be simple, if the boy hadn’t vanished more than 40 years ago, and if Chicago’s finest had shown the slightest interest in his disappearance. As V.I. is settling into this cold, cold case, life goes on happening in the present. She breaks up with her most recent lover. Her cousin Petra, a bright-eyed college grad from Kansas City, pops up, lands a job working on charismatic Brian Krumas’s senatorial campaign and showers V.I. with questions about their family. Lamont’s surviving friends stonewall and revile V.I., even if they’re in jail. Yet the draw of the past is paramount. A nun who shared murdered civil-rights activist Harmony Newsome’s last moments at a Martin Luther King–led march in 1966 is murdered under V.I.’s nose. Evidence links her beloved cop father to a cover-up of police torture. And Petra disappears hours after she enters V.I.’s home with a mysterious pair who turn it upside down looking for something—a plot twist Paretsky begins with and then spends 270 pages working back up to.

A tormented, many-layered tale that seems to have been dug out of Chicago history with a pickax. Readers who persevere through that interminable first-half flashback will be rewarded with the tremendous momentum of the second half.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-399-15593-2
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2009


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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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