Sep 27, 2009

Book Review: Hardball by Sara Paretsky

Hardball Two missing persons - one that lawyer and private investigator V. I. Warshawski is hired to find, the other someone that she must find. Those who want to learn more about the city of Chicago, past and present, will certainly get a lot from reading Hardball.

Synopsis: V. I. Warshawski, lawyer and private investigator, is hired to find a missing man, Lamont Gadsgen. In the meantime her cousin Petra disappears, possibly abducted while visiting Warshawksi's office with two unknown men. The security cameras capture the three blurred figures on film. Warshawski has to find Lamont, who has been missing for many years, and also try to find Petra and calm down her father, who blames her for Petra's mysterious disappearance. The plot ties into the history of Chicago in the 1960s.

I like a cleaner, more focused mystery than the current one by Paretsky, however. Maybe I'm too familiar with Chicago, but I felt that Paretsky tried to cram as much of Chicago as possible into her book, more than the plot warranted. Chicago's southside urban ghettos and its gangs and the 1967 race riots in Marquette Park are central to the plot, but the author also throws in Navy Pier, the Polish community, more than enough Chicago politics, and lots of landmarks. I found it distracting.

Also, I was put off by the number of different characters introduced at the beginning. I didn't know who to focus on. The book would have been better had the writing and plot been more streamlined. Even then, you really can't describe all aspects of this city in one book.

I also found it interesting that Warshawski's love interest is named Morell. The name reminded me too much of Stephanie Plum's on-and-off-again boyfriend Morelli in the Janet Evanovich mystery series. Another unfortunate distraction!

Thanks to the publisher for an ARC for review.

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7 comments:

  1. I need to start reading this series. And I don't even mind learning more about Chicago :)

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  2. For some reason, this is a series I never "got in to." Then again, there aren't many American series I read: many of them have been writing for years and, IMO, are burning out.

    I laughed at your Morell/Morelli comparison—Evanovich needs to resolve the Morelli/Ranger thing. (I read the first six or seven, thanks to my wife, and I was tired of it then.)

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  3. Charlie: I read up to lucky 13. I quit at the beginning of the 14th novel. As you said, burn out.

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  4. I do like V.I. and admit being partial due to Paretsky's Chicago information, as I think fondly of my time living in there. I thought HARDBALL was an interesting book especially from the historical perspective and the family ties Paretsky examines, though maybe less from the POV of a mystery reader. Thanks for the review!

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  5. PS: I loooove Evanovich books but have never found a reason to pick up new releases, since she's so prevalent at used bookstores. I remember with nostalgia when I would be caught reading her books during class in high school because I would laugh out loud at the Grandma's antics. But yes, I too haven't deemed it necessary to even read past #10.

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  6. The information on Chicago in Hardball was very helpful and made the story line more interesting. In my opinion, Sara Paretsky writes better books than any of the female mystery writers because of her complex, well thought out plots. I look forward to a new VI Warshawski mystery by Ms. Paretsky with eager anticipation.

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