Hard Time Paperback – 3 Aug 2000
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This work once again features the determined and passionate sleuth V.I. Warshawski. Here prison life and the entertainment industry merge when Murray Ryerson - a fellow investigator and friend of Warshawski, is assaulted and left for dead.
About the Author
Sara Paretsky, winner of the CWA Silver Dagger award, is the author of eight V.I Warshawski novels. She lives in Chicago.
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Paretsky has allowed VI to age appropriately since the last time we saw her, which is not always the case with writers of serial characters. VI is still financially unstable, single without a partner and becoming rather disillusioned with what her life stands for. She watches as former brother-in-arms Murray Ryerson joins media stardom by associating with television producers and wonders if her long-standing insistence on exposing injustice is wearing thin. She's getting older and, she feels, she has nothing to show for it but financial strain and loneliness.
However, her sense of exposing wrongdoing still rises to the occasion when she nearly runs over a nearly dead escaped convict Nicola Aguinaldo. Despite her quick actions, Nicola dies in hospital and a nasty police detective, Lemour, seems bent on framing VI for murder. The case soon dissolves through lack of evidence, including Nicola's body, which mysteriously disappears from the morgue. VI's interest is piqued and she starts her own investigation into Nicola's life, resulting in continued harassment by Lemour and a sudden, unanticipated interest into her work by corporate security rival, Baladine. However, the pressure put on her is unlike anything she has dealt with before. Unable to turn to the police for help (who would want to believe one of their own is bent?) she realises she must solve the case on her own to protect her reputation and, even more worrying, her life.
VI is as feisty as ever, but her determination becomes increasingly undermined by self-doubt, prompted by realisations that she isn't as fit as she was (Paretsky shows this in an amusing, tension-breaking scene where Vic tries to escape from pursuers through an elevator shaft) and through the repeated and desperate please of her nearest friends. Although Mr Conteras is still keen to get involved in the action, Lotty hits the nail on the head when she suggests the real reason why VI continues to put herself in danger. Without help from previous allies Mallory and Ryerson, and faced with the impatience of others who think she's too old for Quixotic missions, VI finds she is fighting her first battle nearly entirely on her own.
I enjoyed this book as I have all the others in the series. What made Hard Time stand out, however, was the marked change in the heroine. Luckily, VI does not listen to the doubts raised by others and, more importantly, by herself but the change in her own feelings towards her job and ultimately her future, will probably dictate a new direction for any future VI novels.
The plot is deliciously complicated, hard to anticipate, and moves along nicely. Although some will quibble that the whole thing is improbable, it could be made very probable with one small change in the motives of the killers.
As such, I'd have to say this is by far the most sophisticated and exciting of the books in the series. V.I. is a lot like Robert Parker's Spenser: Principle is the thing. In an age when many unthinkingly take the easy way out, it is valuable to explore what a modern Dona Quixote would do. V.I. fills the bill perfectly in this fine novel which rises above the detective genre into regular fiction.
Keep up the good work!
It's still a great page turner and VI herself remains an attractive if odd PI. Recommended for aficionados of US hard-boiled crime stories; not for Republican fans of George W.