Review

Hardball: A V.I. Warshawski Novel

by Sara Paretsky

Upon returning from a life-altering trip to Italy, V. I.
(Victoria Iphigenia) Warshawski plunges head first into a case that
transcends time as she journeys through mementos of her
family’s past. But unfortunately for V. I., she gets much
more than she bargained for as her work in the present causes her
to delve deeper and deeper into the work of her father, a policeman
in Chicago years before. What was her father hiding? And why is her
cousin, Petra, an intern at the governor’s office, so
interested in the case?

As if she didn’t have enough to deal with, V. I. takes on
another case at the request of a local nun, a case that leads back
to a dangerous prisoner on death row. This puts our heroine up
against corrupt policemen from decades past, prison inmates who
still run the streets of South Chicago, and a gang known as the
“Anacondas” as she tries to loosen the criminal grip on
her city.

Readers of the last 14 Paretsky mysteries who have come to love
her favorite doctor and great friend, Dr. Lotty Herschel, and her
tireless elder neighbor, Mr. Contreras, will not be disappointed as
they return to support V. I. as best they can. Also present at each
turn of the page are familiar Chicago landmarks and events.
Particularly interesting are the references to Martin Luther
King’s visit to Chicago and the racial tensions the event
uncovered. In addition, Chicago corruption (both then and now) adds
another dimension to the plot as layer upon layer of the
city’s seedy underbelly is revealed. But it isn’t until
Homeland Security gets involved with a presumably simple
disappearance case 40 years old that the story really begins to
heat up. 

When authors write what they know and what they have lived, they
are normally on safe ground, and Sara Paretsky is no exception.
Paretsky knows Chicago, its not-so-subtle political intrigue and
its sordid history. She has been a Chicagoan since the summer of
’66, and that time in her life has had a profound effect on
her work: “The intensity of that summer, the pleasure I had
in working with the children, the engagement with the city, despite
its flaws, made Chicago a part of me, or me part of it, and it has
been my home ever since. HARDBALL takes place in the present, but
the heart of the story has its roots in that summer.”

Don’t make plans to do anything important when you crack
open the cover of HARDBALL. Once you do, you will be unable to put
it down until you’ve finished. With Paretsky at the wheel,
you can be sure that you will be in for a wild ride: past meets
present, decades-old secrets are unearthed, and all hell breaks
loose. Be there to discover if V. I. Warshawski is able to take
back the streets of Chicago once and for all.

Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on January 22, 2011

Hardball: A V.I. Warshawski Novel
by Sara Paretsky

  • Publication Date: September 22, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399155937
  • ISBN-13: 9780399155932