I guess I should preface this blog by saying that this was not my first experience with Sarah Paretsky. I have been reading and listening to Sarah Paretsky for years. My mother used to take us on trips as little kids, and we would listen to books on tape. My mom loves mysteries, and as a single mother, loves ass kicking females. V.I. was one of her favorites.
So I guess you could say that I was pre disposed to like this book, from a young age. I must admit, I was surprised to be reading this book in a class at school, and pleasantly happy to be reading a book I was sure to enjoy.
And enjoy this book I did. It has everything to make a person happy- sex, violence, and more sex. It is great. There is even a cool English journalist put in just to spice things up. I enjoyed the fact that although Vic is in a male profession, she remains fundamentally feminine much of the time, thinking about things like clothes. The part where she talks about being jealous or not being jealous because she is a modern feminist woman is quite funny as well.
Of course, the action is nonstop, which is also a plus. There is not a lot of thinking or pondering going on in Vic’s world. Much of the time she simply charges head into situations without thinking about the consequences, which are often very bad. One such example of this is her wandering the south side swamp/garbage dump and almost dying. The book is cool for that reason- it is funny, hip, and moves quickly.
The imagery of Chicago is also great, although it leads me to one of the problems of the book. I know that Paretsky has socialist roots, but everyone living in South Chicago is not a working class hero being held down by the man. Although I am personally sympathetic to workers plights (being a worker myself) having worked in the South Chicago area, and having entered many of the homes in this area, I can assure you that while there are good people, there are also a lot of bad people as well. Lazy people who have never worked. Crackheads. Criminals. There may be working class heros, but most of the families are people who never got a chance to succeed in life in this book, while the reality is not the same as the book. I understand the need to further her political agenda, but this got really old really quick to me. The black and white of the culture (lots of people in the south shore area are nicie people downtrodden, and all the Buysmart folks except Billy are evil) turned me off. Nothing is black and white, and using black and white examples makes the book unrealistic.
I also did not like the way the Emergency services of the city are represented. Throughout the book, they are consistently late to places, and seem at best apathetic to the plight of the people in the story. However, there is a reason for this. The cops in these areas have calls stacked up, and receive 3 calls at a time. The area is infested with crime and criminals. It also contains people that call 911 because they have a cold, and want a trip to the ambulance to rule out the swine flu. Her beloved working class heroes stretch the system thin, and the workers to the breaking point. Sorry, I will get off my soapbox now, but that was really annoying to me.
All in all, I believe that the book is really good, and has some good political messages in it (such as the evil big corporations abusing the employees) However, I do feel that Paretsky could do better than one dimensional characters being good or bad. But, all that aside, it sure was fun to watch Vic kick some bad guys asses!