Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novel)

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9780399150852: Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novel)

Checking up on empty family mansions for an old client, V.I. surprises an intruder and subsequently discovers the dead body of a missing reporter who disappeared during the McCarthy era, a find that has links to two prestigious Chicago families and leads to her involvement in the search for a missing boy with terrorist connections. 175,000 first printing.

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Review:

Privilege, politics, and perfidy jointly propel the circuitous plot of Blacklist, Sara Paretsky's 11th novel featuring tenacious Chicago private-eye V.I. Warshawski. By the time this story runs its course, V.I. will have harbored an alleged Arab terrorist, resurrected the ghosts of America's 1950s anti-Communist hysteria, and questioned the integrity of a man she once admired "to the point of hero worship." In other words, it's a typical case for this hard-headed, sarcastic, and perpetually sleep-deprived sleuth.

Still suffering from "exhaustion of the spirit" in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, V.I. is hired to find out who may be sneaking into a vacated suburban mansion. Geraldine Graham, the home's 91-year-old former owner, who still lives nearby, claims she's seen lights in the attic at night. Our heroine suspects this is simply a bid by the wealthy dowager for greater attention, but agrees to do some nocturnal prowling--only to stumble (literally) across the body of a dead black journalist, Marcus Whitby, in the estate’s ornamental pond and encounter a teenage girl fleeing the scene. The girl turns out to be Catherine Bayard, the granddaughter of Calvin Bayard, an unapologetically liberal book publisher who survived a hounding by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee in the '50s without being blacklisted like so many of his authors. Digging deeper, V.I. learns that Whitby was doing research for a book about an African-American dancer and anthropologist who had enjoyed Bayard's support before she too was branded a Communist. Was Whitby killed en route to visit Bayard, one of Graham's neighbors--and a man who has strangely vanished from public view? And is there any connection between this murder and the disappearance of an Egyptian dishwasher, or the recent demise of a right-wing attorney and Bayard foe, in whose apartment V.I. is attacked by an intruder?

Except for a few astounding turns of luck (including the 11th-hour discovery of a revealing audiotape left in a car's player), Paretsky rolls out a credible yarn here, enriched by meticulous character development and an agreeably ambiguous conclusion. The author's intention to link McCarthy-era abuses with post-9/11 government assaults on civil rights is obvious, without being didactic, and it adds currency to a fictional investigation that's already rife with sex, betrayal, and long-held secrets among the rich. It's good to see that V.I. the P.I. hasn't lost the compassion or righteousness that first made her attractive two decades ago, in Indemnity Only. --J. Kingston Pierce

About the Author:

Sara Paretsky is the author of sixteen books, including her renowned V. I. Warshawski novels. Her many awards include the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement from the British Crime Writers' Association. She lives in Chicago.

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