Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fire Sale

As I mentioned before, this Paretsky book was the first detective novel I've read. It appealed to me for a number of reasons. I liked V.I. Warshawski - that she's intelligent, tough, charming, and a feminist with a good sense of humor. I like that she has a sharp tongue always on reserve, and that at the same time, her compassion often dictates her actions, in spite of her wish to shut certain things out and not take on added responsibilities. It seems like all of the characters around her are mere sketches, though, and I wonder if this is typical of the genre.

My favorite thing about the book was the Chicago setting. I actually was going to make a site visit to where Thismia americana was discovered, but reading this book freaked me out to much too explore there on my own. (I will go this summer with friends.) The swamps/marshes that Paretsky writes about are still in that area of Southeast Chicago. When I was researching Thismia, I looked at a Google map and zoomed in underneath the Skyway where Warshawski finds Billy the Kid's wrecked car.

If detective novels are judged based on how effectively they conceal the inner workings of the mystery at hand, then for me, Fire Sale is successful - there was only one part that I predicted ahead of time. The detective novel genre is an interesting one - I like the idea of sustaining a single central character throughout numerous books. In some sense, it's like writing an extensive fictional biography, adding more and more details of the character's life with each new investigation, and I like the idea that different circumstances will reveal different aspects about the protagonist's life.

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