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on 6 November 2013
Unlike some favourite writers who are my contemporaries in being "women of a certain age", Sara Paretsky's sharp edge as a writer is undiminished. Her characters have grown into much loved friends over the years and her observations on character are richer and deeper than ever.

This novel is a page-turner par excellence; beautifully observed, plotted and executed. V.I.'s relationships with the people she depends on has never been more keenly displayed. I hope the lovely Jake ( who does not figure a great deal in this novel) sticks around. I also hope that Lotty Herschel retires soon! How old can she be? 90?
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on 13 November 2013
This is a different approach from other V.I. novels; it goes into the past to illuminate the present and it demonstrates the time it takes - over generations - to go beyond past hurt. It's very engaging; a real page turner. I would very much recommend it to anyone - not just confirmed V.I. fans (among whom I count myself).
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on 14 January 2014
An exciting and thoughtful novel about nuclear secrets and the shadows cast by the second world war.This is an ambitious book which deals with serious issues.It is rather complicated and the reader needs to keep her wits about her as there are many different characters to keep a track of. Warchawski must be getting on a bit now but she is still putting herself in danger and fighting and shooting her way through a very difficult investigation.She is a very brave and determined person who never seems to think about retiring from her p.i job,despite her many injuries. Hurray for V.I.!
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on 16 November 2013
I hadn't enjoyed Sara's last two books as much as I usually do, but Critical Mass has a tight, intertwined plot, with complicated, outstanding characters, who invoke the joy of learning about the universe, but also hand in hand with the horrors of the holocaust. I cried in several parts, and was thankful with the hopeful ending, after such a journey from misery and suffering. Really outstanding. Marie
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on 5 January 2014
This has been a fascinating read. As ever she writes so well and her characters are so meticulously drawn that you have to remind yourself that this is fiction. I have read all the books in this series and have enjoyed them all immensely.
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on 2 April 2015
Well, I've now read 17 V.I Warshawski novels in a row and so feel able to comment.
V.I is definitely the female Philip Marlowe, but I was never as stressed as this reading the Chandler stories. He only went after the odd hood or got into trouble with a crooked police chief, but V.I seems to get tangled up with big powerful people who have private armies of thugs to send after her or tap her phone with impunity. It's all very stressful and completely addictive. Sarah has also become a more accomplished writer with age and even though there isn't a duff book in the line, the later ones seem to flow in an effortless way.
However - and this is my only criticism - whereas authors can continue writing into their twilight years (and I hope Sarah does so), detectives can't go on detecting until they are 70+ unless they take on a Miss Marple type lifestyle. I expect it seemed like a good idea to have V.I aging in real time at the beginning but by the time about 8 books had been written, the fictional time-line really should have been reined in. Sarah has already had to adjust V.I's age in a later book (Hardball) to state that she was born in 1957, whereas in earlier books she was obviously born earlier (1950 according a Wiki entry). But it's not just V.I that has the aging problem, all the characters surrounding her are now too old to be doing what they do and acting as they are. The dogs seem to be living forever as well. I would be just as happy reading these books if they all took place in the 80's/90's and V.I was only in her 40's (according to her original age-line) and could still leap tall buildings - a bit. That's not to say that she shouldn't age, just that she shouldn't age as fast as the author. If she was only in her 40's now we would still have 20 realistic years of books to enjoy.
However, I've come to terms with it because I love the books (and V.I) and I've decided to put it to one side and ignore it but I feel it has been a bad mis-step on the author's part.
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on 19 December 2013
I have reviewed this novel for HNS so shall simply say here that it is pacy, good prose that is sharp and characters with depth. It is also unusual in that it addresses issues that affect our lives today, the early computer science and nuclear power. I particularly liked learning about Austrian women scientists pre world war 2. This is a thriller with legs and a cracking read.
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on 4 January 2016
In this novel, Paretsky shines the light onto so many hidden secrets.
As ever, she creates characters we empathise with and VI's innate sense of justice illuminate the greed and hypocrisy of the government and corporations in this capitalist world.

Excellent, I really couldn't stop reading.
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on 4 April 2016
Her last book "Breakdown" was her worst so far, totally implausible ending, so "Critical Mass" was a welcome return to form. It's a new departure in that it includes flashbacks to the long ago events that VI has to unravel in the present day, beginning in 1913 and moving on through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The book was genuinely moving especially at the end. The central character and narrator, VI Warshawski, is ageing realistically, still very likable if a bit too earnest for me sometimes.

On the downside, I think that Paretsky is a typical liberal-minded Democrat with a naive faith in the power of the Media, the free market economy, and small town America as forces for good. Not nearly so bad as Breakdown in that respect, but still unrealistic. In real life, VI would have been "suicided" or fitted up for a life sentence years ago, along with Lotty, Contreras, and the dogs for good measure.

Speaking of which, when is she going to write a book based around Mr Contreras's history? He's had an interesting life, I'd like to hear more of him and less of Lotty Herschel who I find quite irritating.

Incidentally, the real story of Project Paperclip is every bit as despicable as Paretsky describes.
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on 11 September 2015
I hate to say it, as I have read and enjoyed all the VI books, but, like other reviewers, I am finding the aging of the characters - and dogs - in this series hard to take. When I began reading the novels VI was older than me, now she is younger! Lotte must be 90 if she is a day and still operating, Mr Contreras is also in his 90s and even the dogs must be in their 20s at least! I know Sara Paretsky is well aware of this conumdrum and has therefore slowed down the aging process for her heroine but it is starting to grate. Having said this, I cannot stop reading the books and Critical Mass is up to the same high standard as before - though the last chapter was rather unnecessary. A gripping plot and skillfull writing. Always a pleasure.
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