Sara Paretsky
author of BRUSH BACK
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.


KIRKUS REVIEW

V.I. Warshawski (Critical Mass, 2013, etc.) takes on the most thankless task of her career: reopening a 25-year-old murder case on behalf of a convicted defendant who hates the sight of her.

When trucker Frank Guzzo, who was once V.I.’s high school boyfriend, tells her that his mother, Stella, claims she was framed now that she’s been released after doing a quarter-century for beating Frank’s sister, Annie, to death, V.I.’s main reaction is skepticism. Who knows if Annie was really still alive when Stella left her to play bingo? In the end, though, she agrees to ask around, and the first person she questions is Stella. She quickly learns that Stella still blames V.I.’s mother, Gabriella, Annie’s piano teacher, for turning her daughter against her, and V.I.’s late cousin, hockey star Boom-Boom Warshawski, for ruining Frank’s chances of playing with the Cubs. She also learns that Stella swings one mean fist. Clearly this isn’t a client she can work with. But every attempt she makes to extricate herself from this sticky case enmeshes her more closely with all Paretsky's trademark complications—bullying cops, crooked politicians, long-simmering resentments, buried secrets avid to spring back to murderous life—and she’s haunted by Stella’s contemptuous charge that “you want this to be about my family, but you won’t admit that it’s really about yours.” A healthy dose of present-day murder drives home the urgency of V.I.’s quest. Tension spikes when Boom-Boom’s goddaughter, hockey player Bernadine Fouchard, who’s been staying with V.I., goes missing.

Paretsky, who plots more conscientiously than anyone else in the field, digs deep, then deeper, into past and present until all is revealed. The results will be especially appealing to baseball fans, who’ll appreciate the punning chapter titles and learn more than they ever imagined about Wrigley Field.


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