"Hardball" (V.I. Warshawski Novels)
by Sara Paretsky
Published 2009 by Putnam
As a new fan of the Private Investigator/Thriller/whodunit genre, I wasn't sure what I was in for when picking up this book. "Hardball" is the 13th novel in the V.I. Warshawski novels and not having read any of the previous books, I have found a winner. V.I. Warshawski is a private investigator working in Chicago, her father was a police officer for the Chicago Police Department in the late 60s/ early 70s. That much is learned in this book and any other knowledge of Warshawski's past is not really needed so this book is not one that you have to have read the previous books to know what is going on. Which means you too can jump right in and enjoy this superbly written detective story.
Speaking of the story, this book covers a very interesting time in America's history and the author, Sara Peretsky, does a great job of mixing fact with the fiction to create a backdrop for a thriller whodunit that will knock your socks off, or at least keep you turning the page to find out what happens next.
Private Detective, V. I. Warshawski is hired to find a young black man, Lamont Gadsden, after he disappeared in 1967 during a snowstorm. Lamont's aunt is nearing death and wants to know where her nephew is before she dies. Warschawski reconnects with some of her father's old police colleagues; pays a prison visit to Johnny Merton, a notorious gang leader she once defended in her days as a public defender; and tracks down Steve Sawyer, who disappeared following a murder conviction. She then has to confront an sour time in Chicago's history, a peaceful march in 1966 by Martin Luther King that resulted in a white riot and the murder of a young black woman, Harmony Newsome. Digging into this ancient history stirs passions and fears of what secrets might be revealed.
While searching for Lamont, Warshawski's young cousin is fresh out of college and is helping with a senatorial candidates campaign. This man seeking election is part of a family from that same history of Warshawski's father and when the paths of finding Lamont, solving an age old murder and the ties with her father begin to cross with those of the family of the wanna be senator, her cousin may be in danger.
This book not only provides the thrills-a-minute excitement that a good detective novel should but also deals in a very proper manner with part of America's (not just Chicago's) dark past.