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by Sara Paretsky
G. P.Putnam's Sons, September 2003
416 pages
ISBN: 0399150854

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is the latest in Paretsky's private eye V. I. Warshawski novels. Investigating an old mansion, she ends up chasing an intruder and falling into a pond, only to find a body. The body is of a reporter who had been investigating events of 45 years ago. Soon VI becomes entwined in the tales of two of Chicago?s wealthiest and most powerful families.

This was the first novel by Sara Paretsky that I had read, and it was an excellent introduction to her series. Paretsky triumphs here in so many ways, from the strength of her characters to her settings, from her historical information to her powerful and compelling writing.

'Blacklist' mixes contemporary prejudice with past prejudices. When years ago, it was a battle against Communism through governmental and senatorial investigations, now, in the post 9-11 world, it is a fight against terrorism and the prejudices that it has caused against Arabs. Here, Paretsky creates the character of an Arab teenager, pursued by police with a 'shoot-to-kill' policy, fearing that he will unleash a terrorist atrocity on Chicago. This gives the author an opportunity to discuss the Patriot Act and its plenipotentiary powers, making some interesting, if overtly political reading.

Another successful character is that of the teenager, Catherine Bayard. Idealistic, rich, yet still shockingly innocent, she is a character that will immediately appeal to most readers. Warshawski herself is a bit of a mystery, not always doing the right things, but believing what she does is for the greater good, perhaps the main reason why the novel is told in the first person.

The plot itself is excellent, with an interesting tale that dates back to the un-American investigations, the black/white divide and a contemporary murder mystery. The setting of Chicago and New Solway is brought alive and when 'Blacklist' grabs you, you will be hooked. The ending is interesting, and some might say, ultimately unsatisfying, as there is no real sense of retribution, or even resolution. However, others could say that it is the only way the novel could end. Read it and find out.

Reviewed by Luke Croll, October 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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