I v.i.sited with an old friend this week, and it’s good to see she’s feeling much better and has shaken off some of that depressing crap that made Hard Times an unsatisfying novel featuring the V.I. Warshawsky character created by Sara Paretsky. In my malaise, seems I missed two novels, 2001's Total Recall, and Blacklist. So last week, I serendipitously came across 2003's Blacklist.
Happy accident indeed. It’s not that I avoided the writer, but she was taking the character into increasingly senseless behaviors. V.I.’s antics and excesses stopped being very much fun. And for me, reading Paretsky has always been a case of "tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight".
As usual, the character finds herself in a world of hurt. A sore distraction and source of anguish, her lover is missing in Afghanistan. Her best client hires the dick to resolve a minor problem in an exclusive suburb that blows up in V.I.’s face. By the middle of the novel, the client not only dismisses her but is threatening pulling his $1000 a month retainer; she’s under police suspicion in several jurisdictions; she’s pulled several illegal stunts; a new client enters the picture; the investigation takes her into the black community, leading the detective to face up to yet another professional limitation, her white face; a sex, money, and politics link emerges between the blacklisted blacks and the very riche enclave. And, of course, there’s a dead guy.
Blacklist is a 911 novel. There’s a muslim kid mixed up with a rich white kid, and the USA Patriot Act holding the action together. Paretsky adopts a distinct political point of view that no reader will fail to see. The author gives a reader credit, or perhaps leeway, to draw parallels between red-baiting pendejos and terrorist-behind-every-Koran pendejos in the current Administration.
Paretsky cannot evade Mr. Contreras, not since the writer gave him a more endearing role, but V.I.’s old doctor buddies play minor roles. Instead, Paretsky uses Blacklist to flesh out (and how) the character of her rich benefactor, Darraugh Graham. I’ll look for Total Recall, but more, I look forward to the next V.I. Warshawsky novel. Sara Paretsky is creating so richly defined a cast of characters that her possibilities appear boundless.