V.I. Warshawski returns to her old poverty-stricken neighborhood in
South Chicago to coach basketball for her old coach, who is dying.
Marcena Love, a journalist friend of V.I.'s lover Morrell, attends
basketball practice in preparation to write a story. V.I. is
frankly jealous of Marcena, and when the journalist hooks up with
the married father of one of her students, V.I. is disgusted.
She goes to the discount megastore By-Smart hoping to find a
corporate sponsor for her basketball team. There she meets young
Billy the Kid, the grandson of William Bysen, who is the owner of
By-Smart. She also meets other members of the Bysen family and
picks up on subtle clues of secrets.
Rose Dorrado, the mother of one of V.I.'s students, asks her to
investigate sabotage (dead rats in the heater ducts, glue in the
door locks) at Fly the Flag, the flag-making plant in which she
works. The plant's owner tells V.I. to leave them alone. Does he
want to collect on his insurance? V.I. is even more troubled later
when Rose tells her that she doesn't want her to investigate after
Billy the Kid vanishes, and his father hires V.I. to find him. Is
his disappearance connected to rumors that By-Smart is opening its
door to unions?
One man links Fly the Flag and By-Smart. The pastor Robert Andres,
who preaches at Rose's church, was at Fly the Flag when V.I.
visited it and was also asked by Billy to lead the By-Smart morning
prayer service --- which ends disastrously. Andres appears to know
a lot about what's going on but refuses to help V.I.
I wondered how in the world Paretsky would tie the many seemingly
random threads into a satisfying plot. As in her other novels, she
pulls it off magnificently. V.I. continues to be an admirable main
character. She is human and flawed, yet acts from a strong
crusading sense of social justice, fighting for the helpless. FIRE
SALE is an excellent read.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) on January 21, 2011