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on 22 March 2014
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on 3 November 2015
Parestsky is such a consistently good detective fiction writer. Good characterisation, action well described, not the best story.
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on 17 February 2013
Well written, good pacing, but a bit too predictable in its attack on the extreme right in the USA, and far too many car rides and changes of clothes.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 January 2012
Sara Paretsky is an excellent writer of popular fiction - as her sales will attest - but she is also a novelist who combines good writing with an examination of topical subjects. Most novelists will not try to tackle some of today's social problems. The reader always knows Paretsky's social views by reading her books.

Paretsky's newest novel, "Breakdown", is an examination of how right-wing radio and politicians affect American society. It's an edgy book, with a Glen Beck-like TV and radio commentator stirring up hatred for illegal aliens and Jews and blacks on a Fox News-like network. And a Sarah Palin-like female politician who looks to lock down the votes of like-minded Illinois voters in a US Senate race. She's running against a black woman and she and the radio host come out with racial epitaphs that might be disturbing to the reader. It's sort of Fox-News-on-steroids.

But if racial and other bigotry is part of the story, then Paretsky's heroine "VI Warshawski" is the other part. Maybe a little old at 50 to do the dangerous physical work and sustaining the hits she does, Warshawski remains the center of the story and the personalities she's involved in. The story, which is set in current day Chicago, brings in everything from the Holocaust to the above mentioned right-wing politics, to several murders, much of it with a mental health facility connection. The old favorites from Paretsky's previous books are back - Mr Conteras, cousin-Petra,and the dogs of the household are just a few of the old friends we meet in a new story.

"Breakdown" is a terrific book; Paretsky's done herself proud with the newest. But it is her most overtly "political" and might be too much so to a reader looking for a "light" read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but then my politics and sympathies are right in tune with Paretsky's.
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on 7 May 2012
As a long term fan of the VI Warshawski books, I always look forward to a new one. This one does not disappoint. This time Vic is embroiled in the antics of a group of teenagers (courtesy of her once wayward but steadily maturing cousin, Petra), the murder of another PI and the troubles of an old friend, along with a dollop of politics. Surprise, surprise, all are linked. Of course along the way Vic puts herself, once more, in danger and also ruins a good dress. Perhaps Peretsky's politics come across a little strongly, painting those who don't agree with her views a (metaphorical) darker shade of black (although, with admirable political correctness, the good politician is African American) but the plot and writing are good enough to allow it and the book makes gripping reading whether you agree with the views or not. The only thing I would have preferred changing is not to have had such extremes of views as it was too easy to pick out the bad guys!

Warshawski has been detecting now for thirty years and admits to being 50, so her age has not quite kept up with the times. Equally, her friend Lottie should perhaps no longer be practicing medicine given that she must be well into her eighties. And the dogs are surprisingly hale and healthy as I'm sure they must be quite geriatric. But for the sake of keeping the series going, I'm prepared to suspend disbelief. I can't wait for the next book.
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"He will not allow me to catch my breath,
But fills me with bitterness." -- Job 9:18 (NKJV)

V.I. is back, pulled into all kinds of events that aren't really her problem . . . but which she kindly takes on as her own responsibilities. That's what makes her an appealing heroine for this series. A challenge in the beginning is that new challenges pile up a lot faster than she can deal with them. Helping her cousin Petra with the members of a youth reading club quickly escalates into a murder investigation and political fodder for a particularly nasty contest between a liberal candidate V.I. approves of and her opponent who seems to know no limits to her sleazy attacks. As often occurs in these novels, V.I. is opposed at every turn by those with evil intent and the rich who are either clueless or highly inconsiderate. The threat of death and mayhem are strong in this story and make for a chilling read.

I found the book to be more than a little over the top in characterizing the right-wingers in the story. I'm sure you can find people with these identical beliefs and tactics, but it didn't ring true for me. As a result, the story was diluted unnecessarily in a number of places.

If you haven't thought much lately about the problems of those with mental illness or various mental limitations, this novel will serve a good purpose in presenting reasons why it's important to take their circumstances seriously . . . because they may not be able to do that for themselves.
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on 12 July 2015
I read a lot of detective stories and, while I've never rushed out to buy the latest Sara Peretsky, I've always been happy to come across her books.
Over the years I've developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with her steely protagonist V I Warshawski: while it's great to have a strong female private investigator battling crime and corruption in today's Chicago, I've never been able to warm to her. Too intense? Too righteous? Despite all her flaws, too perfect? There's always time for a few stretching exercises to keep in shape before she dashes off to put her life on the line yet again, and her loyal group of friends/worshippers are always there to pick up the pieces.
But there's always that superb setting - I can't think of another author who brings a modern city to life better than Ms Peretsky - and a tight, fast-moving plot. I wouldn't have said that this was one of her best (V I at her most annoying and some cardboard villains) but I was quite enjoying it - until right at the end, when (avoiding spoilers) a plot twist involving a photograph is revealed that's so ridiculously unbelievable, swiftly followed by a scene in a tv studio that's so absurdly unlikely, that my jaw dropped.
Was the author happy with this? Wasn't there a single editor brave enough to say anything? I was really shocked - hence the two star review.
Breakdown? Let-down, more like.
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on 10 February 2015
The best things I can find to say about this book is that it moved at a pace and gives an airing to the seedy side of US politics. There's also inter-generational friendships played out sitting around on stoops and shared gardens in a way that feels like the author is giving us a lesson in how things should be. Our lawyer, turned detective hero is no Sherlock Holmes and feels so rough and clomping it comes as a surprise when she puts on a pair of high heeled shoes. I was reminded of a book I read many years ago where Jackie Collins was trying to write a character based on Tom Jones, but he came out more like Bernard Manning. The whodunit required the entire inhabitants of a small town to have been struck by inattentiveness for a day. This was the first Sara Paretsky novel I have read and I should say I'm not a regular reader of this genre so you have take what I say from that perspective, but it does have the benefit of objectivity.
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on 2 April 2016
I always enjoy Sara Paretsky's books and this was no exception. Her stories are well crafted and usually keep me guessing. This one, started with a murder in a cemetery, of a controversial figure, at a time when some youngsters were having an 'initiation ceremony'. VI Warshawski became involved and was warned off by the influential grandfather of one of the girls. The story has many twists and turns and kept me engaged to the last. It was a pleasure to read a well-written book with no gratuitous bad language, and an original and somewhat controversial storyline.
I've read all of the VI books to date and will certainly look out for them as they come out.
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on 24 April 2016
Sara Paretsky is a genius. I am dreading reading the last book of the series as I have so enjoyed keeping company with this feisty reflective and flawed female protagonist. (You gave us a scare at the end there Ms Paretsky, but I'm glad we get to read a few more!) Her characters are so well written and so believable in their imperfections, and as for the plots....If challenging our brains is supposed to stave of the horrors of old age, then holding the complexity of Paretsky's plots in our heads will definitely help ! Do I recommend? You bet ! Enjoy them all.
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