Book Review, Crime Fiction
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Dead Land by Sara Paretsky

DEAD LAND
Author: Sara Paretsky
Publisher: William Morrow, 2020
Series: V. I. Warshawski #20
Format: Hardback, 416 pages
Genre: Crime Fiction

Back Cover Blurb

Chicago PI V.I. Warshawski gets pulled into one of these clandestine deals through her impetuous goddaughter, Bernie Fouchard. Bernie tries to rescue Lydia Zamir, a famed singer-songwriter now living on the streets; Zamir’s life fell apart when her lover was murdered next to her in a mass shooting at an outdoor concert. Not only does Bernie plunge her and V.I. headlong into the path of some ruthless developers, they lead to the murder of the young man Bernie is dating. He’s a computer geek working for a community group called SLICK.

V.I. is desperate to find a mysterious man named Coop, who roams the lakefront in the middle of the night with his dog. She’s sure he holds the key to the mounting body count within SLICK. Coop may even know why an international law firm is representing the mass murderer responsible for Lydia’s lover’s death. Instead, the detective finds a terrifying conspiracy stretching from Chicago’s parks to a cover-up of the dark chapters in America’s meddling in South American politics. Before she finds answers, this electrifying novel pushes V.I. close to the breaking point: People who pay to play take no prisoners.

What I Thought

Once again Sara Paretsky leads us on a merry chase, digging up clues, and following a trail of breadcrumbs all the way from Chicago to Salina, Kansas, and out onto the prairies. Unraveling the clues for us at the same time as her dedicated, stubborn, and persistent PI, V.I. Warshawski.

While the scenery may change, along with the stage players, there are a handful of constants you know you can count on with a Paretsky novel and those are a twisted plot, plenty of tension, bullets flying at some point or other, at least someone in need of rescue—or more—and a heroine who simply does not give in or give up, no matter what the circumstances, and how dangerous it might be.

Throw in the fact that V.I. is such a well drawn character (after so many books) that we, as readers, get quickly into what she’s thinking from the get go. Paretsky is no slouch when it comes to secondary characters either. All have serious depth, some more so than others as they’ve passed from one book to another gathering personality and foibles along the way, as has Vic herself. And each is as distinct as the places Paretsky describes with minimal effort.

She makes sure we’re never overwhelmed with detail and yet, manages to convey exactly what she wants us to know with easy to read, flowing prose that urges us along with a fairly insistent pacing. And as she has done in previous outings, manages to weave such a complicated plot, with ample twists and turns, with such careful diligence, building the plot towards what is always a truly satisfying ending.

What you get with a V.I. Warshawski novel is a clever plotted mix of crime fiction, murder-mystery, that’s always a thrilling ride into the dark underbelly of politics, both foreign and domestic. Plus some subtle and not so subtle commentary on society at large, abetted with plenty of historical references in support of a tense, twisted tale of wrong-doing by those in power.

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