Fire Sale by Sara Paretsky

 

Mystery

Fire Sale (V.I. Warshawski Novels) Fire SaleSara Paretsky; Signet 2006WorldCatWhen she gets a call from her old high school basketball coach, V.I.Warshawski reluctantly agrees to be the temporary volunteer coach for the girl’s high school team. Her coach is dying of cancer. The high school is in South Chicago, one of the most depressed neighborhoods in the city as well as one of the most dangerous. Once she has spent a few practices there, V.I. decides to try to help in a different way. The team has no school funding and only a little corporate funding. She is going to try to get some big corporate donation if she can.

The girls are anxious for the team to keep going. Despite the occasional gang fight out on the worn out court and a player’s babies over in the bleachers, they get to practice. After a couple practices, one of the girls approaches her. Josie had heard V.I. is a detective and told her mother. Her mother wants to talk to her about a problem. When V.I. meets the older woman, she learns that a small flag factory, one of the few independent businesses still open in South Chicago, has been coming under malicious attack. She unwillingly agrees to check into it, trying to refer them to the police. Shortly after she starts her investigation, the company burns and the owner dies in the fire.

Buy Rite discount stores, a family owned mega store chain, has their headquarters in Chicago and a huge warehouse there in the South Chicago neighborhood. V.I. apporaches the warehouse manager and is rebuffed. But the owner’s grandson is there. Billy Bysen is the person who was responsble for her getting the interview. Billy took her to the corporate offices to make her request from his family. But Billy has brought other problems to the company. His grandfather believes Billy is trying to bring the union in, which would prevent them from keeping their prices extremely low. Her request is brushed aside. Billy ends up disappearing from the family, avoiding them becasue of ideological differences. V.I. is hired to find Billy. But when she learns Billy is safe and the Bysen family gets too demanding, she quits the contract.

Now V.I. is completely drawn into the current problems in the neighborhood. When one of her high school basketball players collapses during a practice everything escalates. Soon V.I. is in the middle of a dangerous situation. This is not paid work for her, but she is pulled relentlessly in anyway.

I have known about this series for years, but hadn’t picked up a Sara Paretsky novel before. This is the last author discussed in our library’s summer series, Women of Mystery. Fire Sale is the book chosen to go with the readings. So I finally picked a V.I. Warshawky novel up.

For some reason I had it in my head that V.I. was tougher and meaner than she is. I instead discovered I like the character’s voice. While nobody’s fool, she is a well rounded person who likes her job and is able to temper it with her social life as well. She isn’t a loner, although she likes being alone. She grew up in South Chicago and had to earn her way to her current position. She is proud of her achievements. Still, when she meets one of her lover’s journalist friends, she gets jealous of the other woman’s methods and accomplishments.

Fire Sale is wonderfully crafted. The two different corporate stories keep crossing each other without connecting. The experienced mystery reader is aware they probably are connected but the clues, when there, are subtle. There are numerous story lines going on here that could be confusing if the reader tries to combine them too early.

Fire Sale is a mystery reader’s must. People who don’t read the genre will enjoy it, too.

More books by Sara Paretsky
V.I. Warshawski series at Stop! You’re Killing Me!

Link to Amazon.com BooksLink to BetterWorld Books

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