Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Dead Land

Dead Land by Sara Paretsky
HarperCollins: 4/21/20
eBook review copy; 416 pages
V. I. Warshawski Series #20

Dead Land by Sara Paretsky is a highly recommended twentieth outing for hard-boiled private investigator V. I. Warshawsk.

V.I. Warshawski tries to help and support her goddaughter, Bernie (Bernadine) Fouchard, which pulls her into a complicated investigation with multiple strands that tie into other events. First, Bernie asks Vic to attend a meeting of SLICK, the South Lakefront Improvement Council. On the agenda is the Chicago Parks District’s plan to create a lake front beach. The meeting is interrupted by protests led by the mysterious man who calls himself Coop. The infamous Coop reappears when Bernie and V.I. attempt to help Lydia Zamir, a famed singer-songwriter who is now living on the streets of Chicago. Coop, and his dog Bear, are Zamir’s protectors. Vic learns that Zamir's life was shattered when her lover, Hector Palurdo, was murdered at a mass murder during an outdoor fundraising concert four years earlier.

The tangle story continues when the young man Bernie was dating turns up dead and Bernie becomes a person of interest. He was working for SLICK, and it appears to Vic, keeping in mind the city's history of  "pay to play" politics, that his murder might be politically motivated and related to the Chicago Park District's development plans. It also seems that an international law firm based in Chicago might be involved. Since the mysterious Coop seems to have more information, V.I. keeps looking for him, hoping he has some answers, especially because the body count is rising.

This is a very well-written intricately plotted investigation that follows a tangled rabbit trail of clues and leads. V.I. follows the multiple leads trying to piece together the complete picture and find out how it is all connected. The action ranges from Chicago to the prairies of Kansas. Naturally she becomes a target too. Again, naturally, she makes sure Kansas is depicted as a backward place (getting tired of this habitual plot element). There also seemed to be a bit more repetitive action and a few unbelievable plot elements this time around, but that hardly detracts from the overall novel. The bad guys are all very nefarious and the focus of the novel is showing their far-reaching malevolence. Vic ensures that justice is found in the end.

Obviously after twenty novels V.I. is a well-developed character. She's a tough, hard-boiled detective - who loves dogs - and that shines through. We are missing as much interaction between Vic, Lottie, and Max in Dead Land, which some readers are going to miss. You can read Dead Land as a stand-alone novel, though, which could be beneficial to anyone not acquainted with V.I. Warshawski at this point. I'd probably suggest going back to the beginning, although all nineteen previous novels probably aren't necessary.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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