Saturday, July 4, 2015

Book Review: "Brush Back" By Sara Paretsky

"Brush Back" By Sara Paretsky (will be published July 28, 2015) is the latest book in the V.I. Warshawski series that started back in 1982. I was a loyal fan of Ms. Paretsky, reading every V.I. Warshawski book she wrote, right up until "Tunnel Vision". It was written in 1994, then Sara Paretsky stopped writing V.I. Warshawski mysteries for five long years. By then I had moved on to other authors and didn't picked up the series again, until now.

I must admit, I was a bit surprised to find that the main character hadn't really changed in twenty years. V.I. aged, but I see very few other changes in her. She's now fifty but she is still a dogged fighter for the truth and in doing so, also still puts herself in serious peril. This is Paretsky's eighteenth Warshawski mystery and I found myself begging the question, "Why does this character continue to put herself and others in such danger?".

"Brush Back" has V.I. going back to her old Chicago neighborhood to try and help an old flame. Frank Guzzo wants V.I. to investigate and help him prove his mother did not beat his little sister Annie to death twenty-five years ago. Stella Guzzo was just released from prison after doing her time for the murder of her daughter but she claims she didn't kill young Annie. Stella always hated the Warshawskis and it seems time has only made that hate stronger. She is now accusing V.I.'s cousin Boom Boom, the famous hockey player, of killing Annie all those years ago. The problem is Boom Boom can't be questioned as he died years after Annie's murder.

V.I. steps in a real mess by agreeing to look into Annie's death. Her main goal is to clear her dead cousin's good name, he's a hero in Chicago and it grates on V.I. that anyone would sully his reputation now that he's dead. The problem with looking into this very messy old case is the political powers that be don't want V.I. investigating. The result of V.I.'s relentless digging is her loved ones are threatened, her life is in danger and people start disappearing and dying.

I have to rate this book a three out of five and I'm disappointed that I have to give it a low rating. Paretsky's writing is still tight and every detail connects beautifully. Although this mystery was tedious and filled with details, I have to give props to Paretsky for keeping everything straight and connecting all the dots creatively. My biggest problem with this book was the one question that kept popping into my head over and over as I moved through the story. Why hasn't the character gained any maturity? If your life and the life of the ones you love were seriously threatened, wouldn't you let and old murder that was already adjudicated go when all you're fighting is just to clear the name of a dead guy? Aren't the living more important?

V.I. had no real reason to keep digging into this case especially since for three quarters of the book she was sure Stella had indeed killed her daughter just as the courts found twenty-five years ago. Also, the other characters who have been with V.I. since the beginning of the series haven't changed a whit either. Her best friend and doctor still admonishes V.I. every time she blackens an eye or gets a splinter. There is a similar situation with Mr. Contraras who is now ninety. When does a character act his age? Even the dogs she had back then are still alive. 

Fans of the V.I. Warshawski series will still probably like this book. As I said above, it was actually beautifully rendered. Since I'm coming back to the series after many years, I found myself unimpressed with all the old characters and the lack of growth of the series. If you've never read Paretsky's series, go back and start at the beginning, you'll have a bunch of books to enjoy and reading through the whole set may make you love this latest addition much more than I did.
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