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HARDBALL by Sara Paretsky


by Sara Paretsky

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-399-15593-2
Publisher: Putnam

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.