Blacklist

( 17 )

Overview

Blacklist is a story of secrets and betrayals that stretch across four generations - secrets political, social, sexual, financial: all of them with the power to kill. Eager for something physical to do in the spirit-exhausting wake of 9/11, V.I. accepts a request from an old client to check up on an empty family mansion; subsequently surprises an intruder in the dark; and, giving chase, topples into a pond. Grasping for something to hold on to,...
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Blacklist (V. I. Warshawski Series #11)

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Overview

Blacklist is a story of secrets and betrayals that stretch across four generations - secrets political, social, sexual, financial: all of them with the power to kill. Eager for something physical to do in the spirit-exhausting wake of 9/11, V.I. accepts a request from an old client to check up on an empty family mansion; subsequently surprises an intruder in the dark; and, giving chase, topples into a pond. Grasping for something to hold on to, her fingers close around a lifeless human hand.

It is the body of a reporter who had been investigating events of forty-five years earlier, during the McCarthy era, and V. I.'s discovery quickly sucks her into the history of two great Chicago families - their fortunes intertwined by blood, sex, money, and the scandals that may or may not have resulted in murder all these years later. At the same time, she inadvertently becomes involved in the story of a missing Egyptian boy whose possible terrorist connections make him very much sought after by the government. As the two cases drive her forward-and then shockingly tumble together, pushing her into situations more perilous than she could have imagined-she finds that wealth and privilege, too, bear a terrible price; and the past has no monopoly on patriotic scoundrels. Before everything is over, at least two more people will lie dead...and V.I. might even be one of them.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In the wake of 9/11, Sara Paretsky examines the devastating effect of personal fear set against an escalating climate of national paranoia and despair. Blacklist, the 12th outing for private eye V. I. Warshawski, is rife with weighty themes, including terrorism, McCarthyism, and the never-ending fight to preserve the First Amendment; but the author balances out the heaviness with plenty of her trademark dark humor, one-line zingers, intense action, and thrills galore.

V. I. "Vic" Warshawski agrees to investigate the story of a 90-year-old female nursing home resident who claims to have seen lights in a nearby abandoned mansion. In no time, Vic has stumbled across the corpse of a reporter who was hunting down a reclusive dancer blacklisted in the Red Scare of the 1950s. Each event combines with others to reveal a complex cover-up involving the FBI and terrorists at large.

Blacklist, a powerful entry in Paretsky's popular series, gives Vic a chance to show her tender, vulnerable side, as the plucky P.I. wrestles to overcome her feelings of anxiety and powerlessness. Offering up a solid mixture of excitement and thought-provoking issues, the author pulls us into a story that combines the best elements of political intrigue with a classy, first-rate mystery. Tom Piccirilli

Bookpage
...a compelling mystery and an indictment of the McCarthies of all era. Who could ask for more?
The New York Times
Sara Paretsky's Chicago private eye, V. I. Warshawski, is one tough cookie. But the outspoken, often abrasive P.I. isn't entirely fearless, and Blacklist plays on her worst nightmare -- of being deprived of the right to sound off -- by drawing grim parallels between the repressive political climate of the McCarthy era and present-day threats to First Amendment freedoms in the name of national security. — Marilyn Stasio
Chicago Tribune
...a genuinely exciting and disturbing thriller...
Boston Globe
Paretsky [is] an old-school crime-writing pro.
Vicki Ball
Blacklist deserves to be a blockbuster hit and should be required reading.
BooksNBytes.com
Seattle Times
Sara Paretsky wrote the book, so to speak, on putting a woman squarely in the world of tough-cookie private eyes.
The Washington Post
The dependable delights of a Warshawski novel are also in abundant supply: witty dialogue, Warshawski's "bad girl" behavior when confronted by authority, taut action scenes, sharp social commentary and the return visits of series regulars like Lotty Herschel and the always fretting Mr. Contreras. The real triumph of Blacklist, however, is the intelligence it brings to bear on the once again urgent issues of political dissent and national security: Whatever your views on those subjects, this is a provocative mystery that should prompt you to examine them more rigorously. — Maureen Corrigan
Publishers Weekly
Chicago private eye V.I. ("Vic") Warshawski needs all her strength and ingenuity to deal with the tragic effects of discrimination past and present in this riveting exploration of guilt and fear, the 12th installment in Paretsky's stellar series. Longtime client Darraugh Graham asks Vic to investigate his mother Geraldine's suspicion that trespassers are living in the empty mansion her father built in the suburban Chicago enclave where she has spent most of her life. Vic literally tumbles into trouble when, upon falling into a pond on the property, she comes up clutching the hand of a dead man. He is identified as Marcus Whitby, a young African-American journalist who was writing about members of the 1930s Federal Negro Theater Project especially a beautiful Negro dancer once championed by local liberals and blacklisted during the Communist witch hunt. Hired by Marcus's sister to look into his death, Vic spans cultures and generations in her investigation. Is Benji, the young Arab student sheltered in the mansion's attic by 16-year-old Catherine Bayard (whose politically daring publisher grandfather Calvin was once Vic's hero), somehow connected? Whether or not he has terrorist ties, Benji is at risk, so after Vic finds him she persuades Father Lou, a tough but caring community activist, to hide him in spite of post-9/11 dictums. Digging deeper, Vic must face disturbing allegations about Calvin Bayard and the likelihood that her lover, Morrell, on assignment in Afghanistan, is in danger. Paretsky reminds us that although victims change, prejudice is still alive and all too well. With this top-notch offering, she earns another vote of confidence for V.I. 175,000 first printing; author tour. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A dead reporter, a missing Egyptian boy wanted in connection with terrorist activities, and an elderly woman convinced that an intruder is in her family manse are all elements of Paretsky's (Total Recall) 12th novel featuring Chicago private investigator V.I. Warshawski. As V.I. looks into these peoples' lives, she discovers connections among them. She uncovers a story of betrayal and secrets that spans several generations and involves Chicago's wealthiest families, the Red Scare, and the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings of the 1950s. As always, V.I.'s determined pursuit of the truth ensures at least a few heart-stopping moments. This may be Paretsky's most complex novel to date. It will have particular resonance post-9/11, as readers recognize more easily what it was like for past generations to live in fear. Highly recommended for popular reading collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/03.]-Leslie Madden, Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Paretsky exploits post-9/11 paranoia to take up for the little guy once more, as V.I. Warshawski gets her First Amendment rights stomped while fencing with obstructive witnesses and unreliable clients. As her lover Morrell fights the good fight in Afghanistan, Warshawski (Total Recall, 2001, etc.) fancies herself a 20th-century Penelope with a p.i. license. She uses it to investigate longtime corporate client Darraugh Graham's 90-year-old mother's complaint that she sees lights from her nursing home window in long-abandoned Larchmont Hall next door. The first thing Vic finds is a scared teenager-Catherine Bayard, granddaughter of publishing giant Calvin Bayard and his wife Renee, who along with Geraldine and MacKenzie Graham formed the foundation of enlightened but proper society in old-money New Solway-whose journey down the politically progressive path of her grandparents has landed her in big trouble. The second is a dead reporter: Marc Whitby, who'd been working a story on dancer Kylie Ballantine, a casualty of Olin Taverner's 1950s witch hunt, for T-Square, a magazine by and for young African-Americans. Soon Vic has a new client-Harriet Whitby, who thinks that the DuPage county coroner's verdict of suicide is bunk-and she's wanted by the FBI and the cops in two jurisdictions, her apartment ransacked, and her phone bugged, all for treading on the wrong toes. Paretsky emphasizes the political but doesn't neglect the personal here: a compelling tale of secrets that can't stay buried. First printing of 175,000; author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781469272566
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 12/1/2012
  • Series: V. I. Warshawski Series , #11
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 327,609
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 5.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sara  Paretsky
Sara Paretsky is the author of fourteen previous books, including twelve V. I. Warshawski novels. She is the winner of many awards, including the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement from the British Crime Writers’ Association. She lives in Chicago.

Biography

Sara Paretsky grew up in eastern Kansas, where she attended a small country school. The publishing bug bit Paretsky early—at age 11, her first published story appeared in the magazine The American Girl. It was about children surviving a Kansas tornado. She attended the University of Kansas for her undergraduate degree, but after spending a summer in Chicago doing community service work, she fell in love with the Windy City and decided after college to make the move permanent.

Paretsky eventually earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago but had a hard time finding a job as an academic, so she returned to school for an M.B.A., after which she started working full-time in marketing. (In order to complete her first three novels, she juggled family and job with writing at night.) An avid reader, Paretsky has always been a fan of detective fiction, but noticed a lack of intelligent, likable female protagonists in the genre. Thus, with the inspiring city of Chicago as the background, her signature character, V. I. Warshawski, was born.

Readers and critics have responded with appreciation for Paretsky's confident, modern, noir female detective. Unlike other noir heroines, V. I. refuses to be categorized by her sexuality. Despite the patriarchy she confronts on every case, she's a single woman in total control. Paretsky says of V. I., " I started aging V. I. because although she is a fictional character, she is grounded in historical events: she came of age during the Civil Rights movement and the anti-War movement. Her mother was a refugee from Fascist Italy. And her cases are all based on real events. Who she is depends on her being born in the Fifties. Now, of course, I have this dilemma of how to let her get older while still continuing to be an effective detective. I haven't quite figured that out yet."

Beyond her successful series, Paretsy has proven her range of talent with short stories (1995's Windy City Blues) and a handful of stand-alones (Ghost Country, Bleeding Kansas). She has also edited anthologies of mysteries and crime fiction by famous and less well-known female writers.

Generous with all she has learned throughout the years, Paretsky is a co-founder of Sisters in Crime, an organization dedicated since 1986 to bringing the female voice in detective fiction to the attention of booksellers and libraries. Sisters in Crime is a business resource for women on how to prepare a press kit, arrange a signing at a local bookstore, or search for an agent—as well as a treasure chest of new writers on the scene. Check out all they have to offer at www.sistersincrime.org.

Good To Know

Paretsky worked for ten years as a marketing manager at an insurance company and draws on the experience when writing about white-collar crimes for the V. I. Warshawski series.

Comparing herself to V. I. Warshawski, Paretsky says that they both love dogs, enjoy good food and good Scotch, and are both diehard Cubs fans.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sara N. Paretsky
    2. Hometown:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 8, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ames, Iowa
    1. Education:
      B.A., Political Science, University of Kansas; Ph.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

BLACKLIST

A V.I. Warshawski novel
By SARA PARETSKY

G. P. Putnam's Sons

Copyright © 2003 Sara Paretsky
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0399150854


Chapter One

The clouds across the face of the moon made it hard for me to find my way. I'd been over the grounds yesterday morning, but in the dark everything is different. I kept stumbling on tree roots and chunks of brick from the crumbling walks.

I was trying not to make any noise, on the chance that someone really was lurking about, but I was more concerned about my safety: I didn't want to sprain an ankle and have to crawl all the way back to the road. At one point I tripped on a loose brick and landed smack on my tailbone. My eyes teared with pain; I sucked in air to keep from crying out. As I rubbed the sore spot, I wondered whether Geraldine Graham had seen me fall. Her eyes weren't that good, but her binoculars held both image stabilizers and night-vision enablers.

Fatigue was making it hard for me to concentrate. It was midnight, usually not late on my clock, but I was sleeping badly these days-I was anxious, and feeling alone.

Right after the Trade Center, I'd been as numbed and fearful as everyone else in America. After a while, when we'd driven the Taliban into hiding and the anthrax looked like the work of some homegrown maniac, most people seemed to wrap themselves in red-white-and-blue and return to normal. I couldn't, though, while Morrell remained in Afghanistan-even though he seemed ecstatic to be sleeping in caves as he trailed after warlords-turned-diplomats-turned-warlords.

When the medical group Humane Medicine went to Kabul in the summer of 2001, Morrell tagged along with a contract for a book about daily life under the Taliban. I've survived so much worse, he would say when I worried that he might run afoul of the Taliban's notorious Bureau for the Prevention of Vice.

That was before September 11. Afterward, Morrell disappeared for ten days. I stopped sleeping then, although someone with Humane Medicine called me from Peshawar to say Morrell was simply in an area without access to phone hookups. Most of the team had fled to Pakistan immediately after the Trade Center attack, but Morrell had wangled a ride with an old friend heading to Uzbekistan so he could cover the refugees fleeing north. A chance of a lifetime, my caller told me Morrell had said-the same thing he'd said about Kosovo. Perhaps that had been the chance of a different lifetime.

When we started bombing in October, Morrell first stayed on in Afghanistan to cover the war up close and personal, and then to follow the new coalition government. Margent.Online, the Web version of the old Philadelphia monthly Margent, was paying him for field reports, which he was scrambling to turn into a book. The Guardian newspaper also occasionally bought his stories. I'd even watched him on CNN a few times. Strange to see your lover's face beamed from twelve thousand miles away, strange to know that a hundred million people are listening to the voice that whispers endearments into your hair. That used to whisper endearments.

When he resurfaced in Kandahar, I first sobbed in relief, then shrieked at him across the satellites. "But, darling," he protested, "I'm in a war zone, I'm in a place without electricity or cell phone towers. Didn't Rudy call you from Peshawar?"

In the following months, he kept on the move, so I never really knew where he was. At least he stayed in better touch, mostly when he needed help: (V.I., can you check on why Ahmed Hazziz was put in isolation out at Coolis prison? V.I., can you find out whether the FBI told Hazziz's family where they'd sent him? I'm running now-hot interview with local chief's third wife's oldest son. Fill you in later.)

I was a little miffed at being treated like a free research station. I'd never thought of Morrell as an adrenaline junkie-one of those journalists who lives on the high of being in the middle of disaster-but I sent him a snappish e-mail asking him what he was trying to prove. "Over a dozen Western journalists have been murdered since the war began," I wrote at one point. "Every time I turn on the television, I brace myself for the worst." His e-response zipped back within minutes: "Victoria, my beloved detective, if I come home tomorrow, will you faithfully promise to withdraw from every investigation where I worry about your safety?"

A message which made me angrier because I knew he was right-I was being manipulative, not playing fair. I needed to see him, though, touch him, hear him-live, not in cyberspace.

I took to wearing myself out running. I certainly wore out the two dogs I share with my downstairs neighbor: they started retreating to Mr. Contreras's bedroom when they saw me arrive in my sweats.

Despite my long runs-I'd go ten miles most days, instead of my usual five or six-I couldn't wear myself out enough to sleep. I lost ten pounds in the six months after the Trade Center, which worried my downstairs neighbor: Mr. Contreras took to frying up French toast and bacon when I came in from my runs, and finally bullied me into going to Lotty Herschel for a complete physical. Lotty said I was fine physically, just suffering as so many were from exhaustion of the spirit.

Whatever name you gave it, I only had half a mind for my work these days. I specialize in financial and industrial crime. It used to be that I spent a lot of time on foot, going to government buildings to look at records, doing physical surveillance and so on. But in the days of the Internet, you traipse from website to website. You need to be able to concentrate in front of a computer for long hours, and concentration wasn't something I was good at right now.

Which is why I was wandering around Larchmont Hall in the dark. When my most important client asked me to look for intruders who might be breaking in there at night, I was so eager to do something physical that I would even have scrubbed the crumbling stone benches around the house's ornamental pond.

Darraugh Graham has been with me almost since the day I opened my agency. The New York office of his company, Continental United, had lost three people in the Trade Center disaster. Darraugh had taken it hard, but he was flinty, chalklike in grief, more moving than the bluster we were hearing from too many mouths these days. He wouldn't dwell on his loss or the aftermath but took me to his conference room, where he unrolled a detail map of the western suburbs.

"I asked you here for personal reasons, not business." He snapped his middle finger onto a green splodge northwest of Naperville, in unincorporated New Solway. "All this is private land. Big mansions belonging to old families out here, you know, the Ebbersleys, Felittis, and so on. They've been able to keep the land intact-like a private forest preserve. This brown finger is where Taverner sold ten acres to a developer back in 'seventy-two. There was an uproar at the time, but he was within his rights. He had to meet his legal fees, I think." I followed Darraugh's long index finger as he traced a brown patch that cut into the green like a carrot.

"East is a golf course. South, the complex where my mother lives." At the best of times, Darraugh is a wintry, distant man. It was hard to picture him in normal situations, like being born.

"Mother's ninety-one. She manages on her own with help, and, anyway, I don't want-she doesn't want to live with me. She lives in a development here-Anodyne Park. Town houses, apartments, little shopping center, nursing home if she needs medical help. She seems to like it. She's gregarious. Like my son-sociability skips generations in my family." His bleak smile appeared briefly. "Ridiculous name for a development, Anodyne Park, offensive when you think about the Alzheimer's wing at the nursing home-Mother tells me the word means something like 'soothing' or 'healing.'

"Her condo overlooks the grounds of Larchmont Hall. One of the grand mansions, big grounds. It's been empty for a year-the original owners were the Drummond family. The heirs sold the place three years ago, but the new buyers went bankrupt. Felitti was talking about buying, so he could keep more developers out of the area, but so far that's fallen through."

He stopped. I waited for him to get to the point, which he is never shy about, but when a minute went by I said, "You want me to find a plutocrat to buy the place so it doesn't get divided up for the merely affluent?"

He scowled. "I didn't call you in for ridicule. Mother thinks she sees people going in and out of the place at night."

"She doesn't want to call the police?"

"The police came out a couple of times, but found no one. The agent that manages the place for the holding company has a security system in place. It hasn't been breached."

"Any of the neighbors seen anything?" "Point of the area, Vic: neighbors don't see each other. Here are the houses, and all this is hundred years' worth of trees, gardens, so forth. You could talk to the neighbors, of course." He snapped his finger on the map again, showing me the distances, but his tone was uncertain-most unlike him.

"What's your interest in this, Darrangh? Are you thinking of buying the place yourself?"

"Good God, no."

He didn't say anything else, but walked to the windows to look down at the construction on Wacker Drive. I stared in bewilderment. Even when he'd asked me to help his son beat a drug rap several years ago, he hadn't danced around the floor like this. "Mother's always been a law unto herself," he muttered to the window. "Of course people in her-in our-milieu always get better attention from the law than people like-well, than others. But she's affronted that the police aren't taking her seriously. Of course, it's possible that she might be imagining-she's over ninety, after all-but she's taken to calling me every day to complain about lack of police attention."

"I'll see if I can uncover something the police aren't seeing," I said gently.

His shoulders relaxed and he turned back to me. "Your usual fee, Vic. See Caroline about your contract. She'll give you Mother's details as well." He took me out to his personal assistant, who told him his conference call with Kuala Lumpur was waiting.

We'd talked on a Friday afternoon, the dreary first day of March. On Saturday morning, I made the first of what turned into many long treks to New Solway. Before driving out, I stopped in my office for my ordnance maps of the western suburbs. I looked at my computer and then resolutely turned my back to it: I'd already logged on three times since ten last night without word from Morrell. I felt like an alcoholic with the bottle in reach, but I locked my office without checking my e-mail and began the forty-five-mile haul to the land of the rich and powerful.

That westward drive always makes me feel like I'm following the ascent into heaven, at least into capitalist heaven. It starts along Chicago's smoky industrial corridor, passing old blue-collar neighborhoods that resemble the one where I grew up-tiny bungalows where women look old at forty and men work and eat themselves to early heart attacks. You move past them to the hardscrabble towns on the city's edge-Cicero, Berwyn, places where you can still get pretty well beat up for a dollar. Then the air begins to clear and the affluence rises. By the time I reached New Solway, I was practically hydroplaning on waves of stock certificates.

I pulled off at the tollway exit to examine my maps. Coverdale Lane was the main road that meandered through New Solway. It started at the northwest corner of the township and made a giant kind of quarter circle, opening on Dirksen Road at the southeast end. At Dirksen, you could go south to Powell Road, which divided New Solway from Anodyne Park, where Geraldine Graham was living. I followed the route to the northwest entrance, since that looked like the main one on the map.

I hadn't traveled fifty feet down Coverdale Lane before getting Darraugh's point: neighbors couldn't spy on each other here. Horses grazed in paddocks; orchards held a few desiccated apples from last fall. With the trees bare, a few mansions were visible from the road, but most were set far behind imposing carriageways. Poorer folk might actually see each other's driveways from their side windows, but most of the houses sat on substantial property, perhaps ten or twelve acres. And most were old. No new money here. No McMansions, flashing their thirty thousand square feet on tiny lots.

After going south about a mile and a half, Coverdale Lane bent into a hook that pointed east. I followed the hook almost to its end before a discreet sign on a stone pillar announced Larchmont Hall.

I drove on past the gates to Dirksen Road at the east end of Coverdale and made a loop south and west so I could look at the complex where Darraugh's mother was living. I wanted to know if she really could see into the Larchmont estate. A hedge blocked any view into the New Solway mansions from street level, but Ms. Graham was on the fourth floor of a small apartment building. From that vantage, she might be able to see into the property.

I returned to Coverdale Lane and drove up a winding carriageway to Larchmont Hall. Leaving the car where anyone could see it if they came onto the land, I armed myself with that most perfect disguise: a hard hat and a clipboard. A hard hat makes people assume you're doing something with the air-conditioning or the foundations. They're used to service in places like this; they don't ask for credentials. I hoped.

As I got my bearings, I whistled under my breath: the original owners had done things on a grand scale. Besides the mansion itself, the property held a garage, stables, greenhouse, even a cottage, which I assumed was for the staff who tended the grounds-or would tend the grounds if someone could afford to have the work done. The estate agent wasn't putting much into maintenance-an ornamental pond, which lay between the mansion and the outbuildings, was clogged with leaves and dead lilies. I even saw a carp floating belly-up in the middle. A series of formal gardens was overgrown with weeds, while no one had mowed the meadows for some time.

The neglect, and the number of buildings, was oppressive. If you were grandiose enough to buy such a place, how could you possibly take care of it? Circling each building, trying to see if there were holes in foundations or windows, looked overwhelming. I squared my shoulders. Whining doubles the job, my mother used to say when I balked at washing dishes. I decided to work from smallest to largest, which meant inspecting the cottage first.

By the time I'd finished prying at windows, balancing on fence posts to see if any of the roof glass of the greenhouse was broken, and making sure that the doors to the stables and garage were not just secure, but showed no recent signs of tampering, it was past noon.

Continues...


Excerpted from BLACKLIST by SARA PARETSKY Copyright © 2003 by Sara Paretsky.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Sara Paretsky
After more than two decades on the mystery scene, neither bestselling author Sara Paretsky nor her private eye protagonist, V. I. Warshawski, needs an introduction. Here's what Paretsky told Ransom Notes about how her series has changed over the years and the compelling issues she explores in Blacklist:

Sara Paretsky: When I started the series in 1982, V.I. was the first serious woman independent investigator in fiction. She was doing a job that hadn't existed for women when I -- and she -- were in high school. It was also the year the Chicago police force first let women into its homicide unit. Those of us who were pioneers back then, in worlds traditionally closed to women, encountered a kind of resistance and hostility that are hard to remember now, so much has the role of women changed in America. Now, in the real world, women make up a large fraction of the ranks of real private eyes as well as homicide detectives. V.I. doesn't have to fight to prove her right to do the job anymore. She may be a bit slower physically these days, but she's still as acerbic as ever. And, most important, she can now look at a much broader array of social concerns.

Ransom Notes: What inspired you to draw parallels between post-9/11 racial profiling and earlier injustices of the HUAC investigations of the '50s and under segregation?

SP: I began work on Blacklist almost immediately after the events of September 11th. In my previous book, Total Recall, Morrell (V.I.'s lover) had gone to Afghanistan to write about life under the Taliban. When I finished that book, in March 2001, I was planning to write next about Morrell's experiences in Afghanistan.

After September 11th, in the state of shock and numbness that all of us shared, I didn't feel able to write so directly about that situation. Then, as the political climate changed, I began getting very frightened by the powers the Patriot Act gave to law enforcement agents to invade libraries and homes across the country. The more I read about that, the more frightened I became, and the more those issues began being part of the novel I was writing. I started exploring the parallels between the way in which people were being persecuted now in the name of patriotism, and the witch hunts of the McCarthy years.

I have a friend whose husband was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, and his story has haunted me. I think often about the fact that some people are able to take a moral stand in times of great danger, and I wonder whether I would have that same courage.

In Blacklist I explore the different decisions that people made when their lives and their careers were threatened by the McCarthy-era hysteria. Many people committed suicide when they found themselves completely unable to get work as a result of the blacklists. I find that history particularly alarming now, when control of so much of the media is in the hands of a small number of politically radical billionaires -- a situation that makes it almost impossible to bring the hyper-wealthy to justice.

RN: Would you like to hear from readers?

SP: I love to hear from readers. My web site, www.saraparetsky.com, has several places where readers can leave comments and take part in contests that we run through the site. In addition, they can email me at viwarshawski@mindspring.com.

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2004

    Good book, small quibbles

    I've been a long time reader of V.I. Warshawski books, and I have to say that this is tops. As far as plotting and complexity of story line, it is definitely the best. The strange thing is, I have never liked Vic, the main character - she is rude and abrasive, and someone I can't identify with. In previous works the author's plots and taut writing style have carried the books beyond Vic's irritating personality. This book is probably the best example of that. It is well written and far more detailed than some of her earlier work. Vic has mellowed somewhat, but not much. She is still a witch. That can be, and sometimes is, used with great humor, but even in this latest book the humor all too often crosses into obnoxiousness. For a supposedly intelligent detective,Vic wastes a lot of time alienating people who could help her. I believe the author intends this as proof of a hard-boiled, confrontational character who is her own woman. Actually, she's just annoying. However, I really enjoyed the story, which highlights the current paranoia of post 9-11 government policies. I especially liked the irony of comparing the present-day Patriot Act to McCarthy-era witch hunts. There is ample proof that the author did her homework of the political climate of that time. Curiously, there were numerous small errors in references to turn- of-the-century social life of the very rich -it seems as if the author felt these details didn't matter. Well they don't, not for the plot line in general, but they still caught my eye. Another quibble is that the V.I. books are constantly going on about Vic's illnesses / injuries in excruciating detail. Blacklist is no exception, wasting pages on poor Vic's bad cold. We've all had colds and they are not fun; they are even less fun to read about. And contrary to popular belief, a full-blown cold does not arise immediately from a cold-water ducking. To be that sick that fast Vic must have been exposed to a virus several days previously. Then there is the obligatory injury later on - again, references to it go on for several chapters. It seems too much like a sympathy play for an unsympathetic fictional character. My final quibble was with the made-up, extremely wealthy western suburb of New Solway 'near Naperville'. Having grown up there, I recall a lot of crop farms and a few small dairy and trail horse concerns, often struggling and none of them owned by anyone remotely rich until they sold out to become shopping malls. The real old-money, horse country wealth was actually much further west - too far for fictional V.I. to commute to on a daily basis. But I suppose that naming a real town, complete with inbred aristocrats and close-minded cops (and they really ARE like that) might end in a legal challenge. Quibbles aside, this is a good book, and well worth reading. I don't think it's a super-terrific great book, but it is certainly better than most of its genre. It is also the best of Sara Paretsky's work to date.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2014

    Long Winded

    When I started this book, I had high hopes of an interesting read and the expectation of another fine storyline in line with past Paretsky novels. I was sorely disappointed. This book had a convoluted plot and was extremely long-winded. I just kept hoping something would hurry upand happen already. Unfortunately, that was not to be. I slogged through the rest of the story like it eas a punishment and, when the end finally came, it proved to be highly inadequate. Questions were left unresolved but I no longer care. At least it is finally finished. Stephanie Clanahan

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  • Posted December 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Just Okay

    I found the plot overly complicated, with a tangled web of people that it was often difficult to keep straight. Most of the characters had very little depth and not a lot to either love or hate. The writing is good and the book had moments that captured my attention.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2004

    V. I. at top form, classy, sassy and spirited¿

    Dzien dobry, Sara Paretsky and Detective Warshawski¿ from a survivor - thank you for noting 9/11. So, V.I., you are off on another assignment in BLACKLIST. Hired by long-time client, Darraugh Graham to investigate 'goings on' at his family's old home near Anodyne Park in New Solway. Darraugh's feisty mother Geraldine now lives in an apartment near the property and has seen lights in the attic of the empty house, imagination or fact? On the second late-night property stakeout, Detective Warshawski encounters a young teenage female heading toward the entry of the house. The teenager takes flight and escapes during pursuit, unfortunately. Giving chase, Detective V.I. falls into five feet of murky, weedy, pond water located on the property. As she rises out of the clay-like soil, she finds a drowned male body; attempts CPR but to no avail. The dead man is identified as freelance reporter Marcus Whitby. Cause of death is listed as 'drowning' after consumption of alcohol, probably. His parents come to Chicago to claim the body and are eager to return home for burial ceremonies. Sister of Marcus engages V.I. to intervene for an autopsy to determine cause of death, officially. Why was he at the property? How come his automobile was not nearby? Why was there no identification on him other than a very wet matchbook and a pencil? Warshawski learns the identity of the teenage trespasser who is linked to an affluent Chicago family, a publishing firm owned by the Bayard's. Interrogation of young Ms. Bayard brings shallow results. The news media reports on the mysterious disappearance of a young, male Egyptian named Benjamin Sadawi. Added to the building suspense are reports of terrorist activities under investigation, adding fire and energy of implications wrought in BLACKLIST. And¿, more turmoil runs amok when 'authorities' want to gain access to student files in the elite Vina Fields Academy on Chicago's Gold Coast. The momentum builds with V.I. not deterred by any subtle hints or threats to her investigation. Suddenly, however, her employer Darraugh Graham instructs V.I. to put a halt to the investigation of the once family-owned property. Warshawski fans know that such moments of 'halt commands' only provide fuel to V.I.'s detective energy. Meanwhile, Warshawski's love of her life, Morrell is on assignment in Afghanistan. To friend and neighbor, Mr. Contreras (God love him), V.I. is known as 'doll' or 'cookie', and he continues his vigil of watching over her. Providing chicken soup, and a breakfast of French toast with bacon to maintain her well-being. As always, Sara Paretsky gives credence to the story with well-described, scenic places in Chicago, lovable and not-so-lovable characters -- some have been with Warshawski for years as others come and go. Along with the plots, questionable circumstantial deaths, and a not-to-be defeated Detective Warshawski, BLACKLIST will keep you reading through wonderfully captioned-chapters, such as: 'House of the Dead'; 'Crocodile In the Moat'; 'Stiffed at the Morgue'; 'Terrorist on the Run', and 'Shootout at the Eagle River Corral'. In true Paretsky definitive style, V.I. Warshawski continues with question upon question of what she is getting for responses - sly, half-truth, no-truth answers. To readers - check out Sara Paretsky's website¿ www.SaraParetsky.com. Review based on hardcover 2003 edition.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2004

    Gotta Get Beyond the Cold

    Sara Paretsky¿s skill as a writer surfaces through her ability to create strong empathy between reader and character. This is no more evident than by the events of Chapter 4. Our favorite character, V.I. Warshawski, catches cold pulling a dead man out of a pound. As she drags fanny, so does the reader. But when our investigator returns to form, the intensity of the plot follows suit, eventually clipping along at a pace that kept this reader turning pages well into the wee hours of the morning. By the end of the story, no character is left dangling. The reader knows the who, what, and why. However, nagging thoughts persist about how our lives fit in a country fraught by paranoia. As V.I. goes about her business of investigating, she is ¿ indeed ¿ a mellower private eye, using clever interrogation skills, rather than ¿lip,¿ to drag answers from the unsuspecting instead of alienating them. I like this deeper Warshawski. On the other hand, V.I. remains true to form by going where her case leads her, deliberately shoving aside warnings to ¿back off¿ despite threat to body and business. The author uses ¿the case¿ to explore the darker sides of Homeland Security and the power of the ultra-wealthy. V.I., herself, becomes the target of over-jealous protectors of the homeland, and the reader is reminded of just how easy it is for very real civil liberties to be trampled. Readers are also exposed to the inworkings of high-society, and how ¿different¿ they think and operate from the rest of society. I applaud this book. It takes the reader places that few would imagine when seeking to be entertained by the familiar antics of our beloved V.I. Warshawski. Blacklist not only entertains, but makes the reader look at our country in the wake of 9/11.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2003

    Thanks, Sara

    Thanks, Sara, for exceeding my expectations! Two of my favorite authors, Sara Paretsky and Patricia Cornwell came out with new books...Blowfly by Cornwell was completely disappointing - horrible! But Blacklist might be the best Warshawski novel yet - exciting, well-written and with a timely message. Thanks, Sara!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2003

    First time is a charm!

    This is my first experience with the writer and I am totally hooked. The book is also altogether different from what I have read in the past. It was a wonderful read, could hardly put it down. As I got closer to the end, I slowed down my pace in order for the wonderful story to go on and on

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Sheer brilliant storytelling

    The impact of 9/11 even in the heartland continues to have impact on residents. While her lover writer is in the Afghanistan or is that the Ubekistan area, private investigator V.I. Warshawski agrees to accept a strange case, at least from this particular client, longtime corporate customer Darraugh Graham. His ninety-year-old mother insists that she has seen lights looking out from her room in a nursing home from inside the nearby abandoned Larchmont Hall.<P> V.I. goes to the deserted building anticipating running into either homeless or teens, but instead finds the corpse of T-Square magazine reporter, Marc Whitby. Apparently, he was investigating 1950s dancer Kylie Ballantine, a victim of Olin Taverner's witch-hunt. The county declares Marc killed himself, but his wife Harriet hires her because she wonders if government officials murdered him. V.I. accepts the case though the FBI and local law enforcement want her to step back because they are investigating a case involving a possible terrorist that might have a bearing on the reporter¿s death.<P> BLACKLIST is Sara Paretsky¿s best tale in several years as the author effortlessly brings out the caring side of her sleuth without diminishing the strength of V. I. All that is placed inside a political thriller wrapped around a fast-paced who-done-it. This well written exquisitely exciting hooks the reader while also providing a warning message that the witch hunts of Salem and McCarthy are not isolated aberrations. They are a consistent part of history ( especially when people allow the flag and ¿security¿ to warp freedoms. After a dozen or so books, Warshawsky hopefully has more adventures like this one that is if she can avoid vanishing in front of a military tribunal.<P> Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2003

    Exceptional Book

    In Blacklist, we find V. I. unable to return to normal after the shock of 9/11 as long as her reporter boyfriend is still in Afghanistan. Eager for a distraction, she accepts a case from an old client. The client wants her to check out an old empty mansion that is adjacent to the retirement home in which his mother resides. His mother has reported seeing lights on the grounds and claims the local authorities think she is imagining things. Expecting to find teenagers lurking about the grounds, she is surprised to find a dead body. The body turns out to be a reporter who had been investigating events from 45 years ago. V.I. is quickly sucked into a history of secrets and betrayal crossing four generations in two great Chicago families. In the course of the investigation she accidentally becomes involved in the search for a missing Egyptian boy. The boy is believed by our government to have connections to terrorists. As she works the two cases, she discovers that wealth can bring with it a terrible price and that patriotic scoundrels exist in our past, present and undoubtedly in the our future. Sara Paretsky exhibits the best of her writing talent in Blacklist. Not only is this a compelling story, but in the aftermath of 9/11, it makes us examine our own fears and actions. I became so engrossed in the story that I couldn't put it down until I had finished the book. I completely agree with the publisher that Blacklist is a stunning achievement for Sara Paretsky.

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    Posted June 5, 2012

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    Posted October 9, 2011

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    Posted December 28, 2008

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