Fire Sale Hardcover – Jun 28 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Private eye V.I. Warshawski takes a break from tony Lakeview to fill in for her old high school basketball coach on Chicago's South Side in her 12th adventure. Vic starts her volunteer stint looking for a team sponsor at megadiscount store By-Smart, whose founder, Buffalo Bill Bysen, is a fellow alum. Of all Bysen's cutthroat, cost-cutting family, only idealist 19-year-old Billy shows any interest in helping the team. When he disappears, his frustrated father hires Vic to find him. The mother of a high school basketball player also hires Vic to investigate sabotage at the flag factory where she works—an investigation cut short when the factory blows up before Vic's eyes. Things go no better at school or at home, and clues pile on but they don't add up. Vic takes her lumps as she makes her way from a fundamentalist church, where the pastor goes to extremes for his flock, to the city dump, where villains try to bury their secrets. Paretsky has recently tackled the Holocaust (Total Recall) and globalization (Hard Time); here she explores the struggles of the working poor and the schemes of the rich and infamous. Packed with social themes and moral energy, held together by humor, compassion and sheer feistiness, this novel shows why Paretsky and her heroine are such enduring figures in American detective fiction.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Long-running mystery series have a way of losing readers over time, but anyone who has drifted away from Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski should promptly return to the fold. The thirteenth Warshawski novel is one of the best, primarily because it takes V. I. back to her South Chicago roots, filling in fascinating backstory on the sleuth's evolution and effectively utilizing both the city's broad-shouldered past and its radically globalized present. V. I. returns to her old neighborhood--in the far southeast corner of Chicago--to fill in for her former high-school basketball coach, who is fighting cancer. Confronted by a dilapidated gym and a team made up mainly of gangbangers and single mothers, V. I. feels overwhelmed--for about five minutes, before she reacts with typical ferocity, driving her players and doggedly pursuing corporate funding for the team. It's the latter that takes her to By-Smart, South Chicago's main employer, run by a bigoted, born-again billionaire. Soon V. I. is caught in the middle of a Romeo and Juliet romance between the son of Mr. By-Smart and the daughter of a Latina single mother, whose employer's factory has just been destroyed by fire. Paretsky has never been better than she is here at evoking a sense of place--abandoned and rusting steel mills casting long shadows over the difficult lives of largely immigrant families. Nothing seems forced as Paretsky plays socioeconomic realities against a universal story of passion and jealousy, building the plot from the marshy ground up and allowing Chicago to muscle its way into a costarring role. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Like P. Schumacher, I have often compared her to Dickens because of her ability to create fabulous characters (including some terrific villains) while making complex political issues accessible to people who otherwise are turned off to politics.
In taking on the Walmartization of America, she has plenty of material. And she explores the issue from a variety of angles, including from the point of view of people forced by circumstance to be trapped in chronic underemployment. At the same time, she shows how the predatory practices of BigBox America destroys communities, including small business.
Any she does this while weaving a darn good story.
However, I would suggest the reader avoid at all costs the Brilliance Audio edition as voiced by the worst narrator working in AudioBooks today. Sandra Burr, despite the "spotlight" reviewer's opinion is totally wrong from this or any book for adults. She has no understanding of the characters or the book's subject matter, and her characterizations truly hurt the book. She is distracting when she gives a 19 year old young man the voice of a 12 year old girl....and everytime she does dialogue, my immediate impulse was to to track to down Paretsky's agent and demand she renegotiate her contract with Brilliance.
But not Sara Paretsky! I've been a fan for years, and the V.I. books just keep getting better. This one is well-written with a great plot line. It's a treat you owe yourself for the heat of this summer.
This book has many strengths, including memorable characters, much action, a strong setting, and seamless prose. However, I wonder if Paretsky is getting tired as V.I. is mellowing? The plot was a bit shaky (V.I. had a bit too much of a free pass into offices that no one would allow her to gain access to, and her reasons for becoming involved in the shady business of the South Side were tenuous at best). And many characters are thinly drawn caricatures (the Poor Little Rich Boy in love with the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, the minority mother who works hard to keep off welfare, the heartless businessmen who cry "family values" but who will do anything to stay ahead, etc.). And even many of the old standbys (Lottie, Mr. Contreras, Conrad) seemed a bit tired of their roles, just popping on stage and then off again with no emotion or involvement.
Overall, I rate this book highly because of its action and writing. But Paretsky may have to start relying on real human interaction for interest, instead of just sending V.I. on another trip to the emergency room.
One of the team's stars Josie Dorrado asks Ms. Warshawski to talk with her mother who is concerned with rumors she overheard that someone is going to blow up By Smart's nearby manufacturing plant. If this happens many people including the older Dorrado will be out of work as By Smart is the biggest employee besides maybe the gangs in the depressed South Chicago. In spite of expecting nothing, Vic. goes to check out the tip when the explosion occurs. At about the same time, Josie and Billy Young, grandson of the By-Smart owner, run away. Vic hopes to find the teens before they get into trouble and also uncover who blew up the plant killing someone she knows while recovering from injuries and finally coaching teen basketball.
The who-done-it starts late, as Sara Paretsky provides her fans with an absorbing tour of Warshawski's old neighborhood. The team is delightful to follow with their fights, clichés, and camaraderie with several having unique personalities. More personal than usual, FIRE SALE is a fabulous South Chicago mystery that provides an interesting new side to V.I. that of mentoring coach. Sara Paretsky talent shines through with each book she writes.