I like the idea of Sara Paretsky. I like that she is a Chicago writer and that she features a kick ass woman as the life blood of the novels. There are no many detective novels that feature strong independent women and Sara made a character that is smart and strong, not stereotyping her character as either a vamp or victim.
I also enjoy that she enjoys Chicago. She uses Chicago almost as a character itself. It’s wonderful when she uses the chilling surroundings of the poor as one of her characters. Fire Sale is squarely placed in the depths of South Chicago. The bleak streets provide a color that makes all of her characters and plots that much more vivid and interesting. Yeah the Northside is awesome, but the Southside has grit that a gritty crime novel thrives off of. Take V.I. out of the slums and the story becomes wilted, almost stale.
However, there were two things which annoyed me. First, Paretsky falls into the trap that many novelists who have lead females; they turn the heroines into punching bags. The amount of physical violence that befalls V.I was slightly disturbing. V.I is no victim and she can totally hold her own, but it feels like Paretsky has to put her to the test constantly, almost making her work for her kick ass status. I found it unnecessary and annoying.
Second, Paretsky obviously does not like the rich. Humorous in the beginning, it just got obnoxious as the book continued reminiscent of the socialist ranting in “The Jungle.” I get it, you don’t like the rich and you need a foil for your selfless characters, but it became so annoying that I would skip the parts where the Bysens were mentioned. While not a paragon of brilliant writing or character development, Dan Brown and his Robert Langdon novels, succeed in writing villains in away that makes the reader feel for them until something totally unrealistic happens. That’s what Paretsky has to do to keep her novels from reading like bitter, boring rant; give her villains sympathetic qualities so the reader finds them interesting.