Sara Paretsky’s social immediacy is appealing
By Derryll White
Sara Paretsky writes strongly from a personal perspective. She sees things in the world she inhabits which are often jarring or upsetting. These things are rolled seamlessly into the novels she writes, giving them a social immediacy, which is appealing.
This is V.I. Warshawski’s second case, a very personal one involving the death of her close relative, cousin “Boom-Boom” Warshawski. He is an ex-hockey star with the Chicago Hawks. Boom-Boom becomes involved in the grain transport business after retiring from hockey, and Paretsky does a nice job of presenting the Great lakes shipping industry in all its complexity. The intricacies are fascinating as V.I. figures out how to locate specific ships in the complex Great Lakes waterway. At the same time, she also builds on that view of the city of Chicago as a seething, lusty centre of middle America.
Sara Paretsky gave mystery readers a huge gift when she introduced V.I. Warshawski in 1982. The PI is a capable, intelligent woman who earns her place in the genre by being stubborn, tough enough to absorb some punishment and much smarter than her adversaries.
Through V.I. Warshawski the main workings of Chicago’s South Side are graphically presented. Her exploration of the grain terminals and docks creates an indelible sense of place. V.I.’s sense of social justice takes the reader outside the story to examine the foibles of a world sometimes gone mad with intolerance and greed.
Invariably Paretsky brings the reader to consider the plight of those on society’s margins. I would recommend her 2007 Writing In An Age of Silence to anyone interested in alternate social perspectives.
Excerpts from the novel:
HISTORY – Mrs. Kelvin spoke sadly. “We keep telling them there was something going on in that apartment – we keep telling them that you knew about it. But they aren’t going to do anything. They’re just treating it like another black killing and they aren’t going to do anything.”
PLUGGED IN – “Americans are afraid that if they unplug themselves from their electronic toys for five minutes they’ll miss out on – everything – Life. Imagine no TV, no telephones, no beepers, no computers, for three minutes. You’d die. You’d be like a beached whale.”
– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them. When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.