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Hard Time (V. I. Warshawski Series #9)

Hard Time (V. I. Warshawski Series #9)

3.8 9
by Sara Paretsky

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Among the first, and perhaps the most compelling, female private investigators of contemporary fiction, Sara Paretsky's incomparable character V. I. Warshawski at last returns to the page in her first full-length appearance since 1994's Tunnel Vision. Hard Time is the work of a master--a riveting novel of suspense that is indisputably Paretsky's best V.I. Warshawski


Among the first, and perhaps the most compelling, female private investigators of contemporary fiction, Sara Paretsky's incomparable character V. I. Warshawski at last returns to the page in her first full-length appearance since 1994's Tunnel Vision. Hard Time is the work of a master--a riveting novel of suspense that is indisputably Paretsky's best V.I. Warshawski novel yet. Multimedia conglomerate Global Entertainment has purchased the Chicago Herald-Star, forcing the paper's staff to scramble to stay employed. Reporter Murray Ryerson, V.I.'s longtime friend and sometime rival, manages to reinvent himself as the host of a television show on Global's network.

Editorial Reviews

Toby Bromberg
With a suspenseful, hard-hitting plot and numerous twists and turns, Hard Time shows Sara Paretsky at top form. This emotionally charged tale will grab your interest immediately and not let you go—one of the season’s hottest reads.
Romantic Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
V.I. Warshawski's first outing in five years begins with a party celebrating the TV debut of her reporter friend Murray Ryerson and attended by Lacey Dowell, Chicago native and star of Mad Virgin films. On the drive home, V.I. swerves to avoid hitting an injured young woman, who later dies. A hostile cop barges in the next day to question Vic about the "hit-and-run" of Nicola Aguinaldo, who seems to have escaped from the medical ward of Coolis, a privately operated prison in northwestern Illinois. Nicola was serving time for stealing a $50,000 necklace from her employers, the Baladines, owners of Carnifice Security, which operates state prisons. Vic gains access to the Baladine enclave--where no one but the Baladine son, Robbie, seems concerned about Nicola's death. Then one of Lacey's childhood friends is found drowned. Things get even murkier when Robbie shows up at V.I.'s house and the PI is arrested and herself shipped off to Coolis to await bail. Suddenly powerless, V.I. learns how quickly freedom can be lost. But her faithful neighbor Mr. Contreras and her mentor Lotty, the activist doctor, never waver; further, unexpected support comes from an advocate for political prisoners and an inner-city priest. Illegal aliens, labor problems, political corruption and prison abuse all mix into the intrigue. Paretsky (Tunnel Vision) weaves a thread of loss though this journey to hell and back in which Vic ponders the death of her own mother and the end of a relationship, as well as the pain of those caught in the far-reaching tentacles of corrupt power. The use of short chapters with catchy, ironic titles keeps the action moving without giving too much away and helps to marshal the abundant characters and plot turns. Hurrah and welcome back, V.I.--and Sara P. Major ad/promo; 9-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This ninth V.I. Warshawski novel finds the tough-talking private eye involved in yet another adventure. Framed for vehicular homicide and other charges and tossed into Coolis prison, Vic uses this opportunity to search for answers. In so doing she uncovers quite a scandal, one that stretches from the jailhouse to the mansions of Chicago. The contrast of the luxurious world of Global Enterprises and the harrowing environment of the women's prison make an indelible mark and turns this story into an ambitious but satisfying tale, with Jean Smart's clear reading contributing to its success. Highly recommended.--Denise A. Garofalo, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
School Library Journal
YA-Paretsky's incomparable private investigator solves many mysteries in this suspenseful thriller set in Chicago. The story begins as she drives friends home from a large party given by a multimedia conglomerate called Global Entertainment. As she takes a short cut through town, she narrowly misses a body in the road. The victim, a young woman, is barely breathing and brutally battered. As Warshawski begins to unravel the mystery of this woman, she becomes the chief suspect in the "hit-and-run." When the body disappears and she starts to investigate the situation on her own, she takes on the Chicago police, the CEOs of Global Entertainment, and guards at a women's prison. Her friends try desperately to pull her away from a dangerous situation, but the sleuth finds too many coincidences that don't make sense as she tries to clear her own name. This PI is tough, stubborn, passionate, and right. YAs will find her story riveting until the very end.-Linda A. Vretos, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Roz Kaveney
Hard Time is a return to form. Paretsky has taken a look at the corporate fuedalism of the late 1990s and has come back very angry indeed...Like her early Killing Orders, this book turns on the fact that the very rich are able to buy the destruction of anyone who inconveniences them.
—From The Women's Review of Books
Margaret Kinsman
As her old pal, journalist Murray Ryerson, accusingly says to to her, "You are always right, aren't you...you come galloping in like some damned Amazon, quivering with omnipotent self-righteousness..." Welcome back, damned Amazon—you' been out of town too long! Paretsky's latest novel provides vintage V.I. dialogue, a characteristic focus on social issues and women, and a complex and well-paced plot. All this, and more, with subtle new complexities to V.I. as she hits her mid-forties. It is a bravura return.
The Women's Review of Books
Charles Winecoff
Thankfully, Warshawski hasn't lost a streetwise beat in the years since 1994's Tunnel Vision as she copes with her fortysomething aches and limitations, spearing everything from corporate rapacity to the American class system with her peppery humor. Let's hope it's not another five years before her next caper.
Entertainment Weekly
Newsweek Magazine
In a crowded field of female detectives, V.I. Warshawski rules. Here she's framed by fat cats who hope a dose of prison brutality will shut her up.
Kirkus Reviews
Driving home one night from a party for Global Studio star Lacey Dowell (the Mad Virgin), V.I. Warshawski nearly runs over a woman dying on an Edgewater street. When Nicola Aguinaldo does die in the hospital Vic rushes her to, Chicago's finest come down on Vic like a ton of bricks, losing the accident report that would clear her, then the body itself before it can be autopsied. But Vic already knows that the undocumented Filipina who'd just escaped from Coolis Prison wasn't the victim of a hit-and-run: she'd been kicked to death. How does her killing tie in to the crime that sent her to prison—stealing a necklace from Eleanor Baladine, whose husband Robert owns the behemoth security corporation that runs Coolis? Why was Nicola wearing a T-shirt made by Lacey Dowell's old friend Lucian Frenada, who keeps trying to get Lacey to cast a glance his way? Why does Global attorney Alexandra Fisher (formerly Vic's law school classmate Sandy Fishbein) want to hire Vic to keep Frenada off Lacey's back? And why, after Vic turns down the job, does non-swimmer Frenada wind up practicing his breaststroke in Belmont Harbor? Before Vic can come up with answers to all these questions, the bullies ranged against her trump up another charge that gets her thrown into Coolis herself—but throughout her harrowing ordeals in the women's prison, you're never in doubt who's going to end up sorry. Since nobody needs more than one scene to make an indelible impression, Paretsky has room to build one of her most satisfyingly ambitious novels yet; not till it's all over do you realize how much of the solution you already knew. A triumphant return to form for V.I., who's come back from a five-yearsabbatical (Tunnel Vision, 1994, etc.) as strong as Vladimir Horowitz. (Author tour)

From the Publisher
Praise for Sara Paretsky:

"Paretsky's books are beautifully paced and plotted, and the dialogue is fresh and smart."

"Paretsky is still the best...she doesn't pull punches."
The Washington Post Book World

"Sara Paretsky has hit the big time...she gets better and better!"
Los Angeles Times Book Review

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
V. I. Warshawski Series , #9
Product dimensions:
6.66(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.32(d)

Read an Excerpt

Media Circus

Lacey Dowell clutched her crucifix, milky breasts thrust forward, as she backed away from her unseen assailant. Tendrils of red hair escaped from her cap; with her eyes shut and her forehead furrowed she seemed to have crossed the line from agony to ecstasy. It was too much emotion for me at close quarters.

I turned around, only to see her again, red hair artlessly tangled, breasts still thrust forward, as she accepted the Hasty Pudding award from a crowd of Harvard men. I resolutely refused to look at the wall on my right, where her head was flung back as she laughed at the witticisms of the man in the chair opposite. I knew the man and liked him, which made me squirm at his expression, a kind of fawning joviality. Murray Ryerson was too good a reporter to prostitute himself like this.

"What got into him? Or more to the point, what got into me, to let him turn my bar into this backslapping media circus?"

Sal Barthele, who owned the Golden Glow, had snaked through the Chicago glitterati packed into her tiny space to find me. Her height—she was over six feet tall—made it possible for her to spot me in the mob. For a moment, as she looked at the projection screens on her paneled walls, her relaxed hostess smile slipped and her nose curled in distaste.

"I don't know," I said. "Maybe he wants to show Hollywood what a cool insider he is, knowing an intimate bar they never heard of."

Sal snorted but kept her eyes on the room, checking for trouble spots—patrons waiting too long for liquid, wait staff unable to move. The throng included local TV personalities anxiously positioning themselves so that their cameras couldcatch them with Lacey Dowell if she ever showed up. While they waited they draped themselves around executives from Global Studios. Murray himself was hard at it with a woman in a silver gauze outfit. Her hair was clipped close to her head, showing off prominent cheekbones and a wide mouth painted bright red. As if sensing my gaze she turned, looked at me for a moment, then interrupted Murray's patter to jerk her head in my direction.

"Who is Murray talking to?" I asked Sal, but she had turned away to deal with a fractious customer.

I edged myself through the crowd, tripping on Regine Mauger, the Herald-Star's wizened gossip columnist. She glared at me malevolently: she didn't know who I was, which meant I was no use to her.

"Will you watch where you're going, young woman?" Regine had been tucked and cut so many times that her skin looked like paper pulled over bone. "I'm trying to talk to Teddy Trant!"

She meant she was trying to push her bony shoulders close enough for Trant to notice her. He was the head of Global's midwest operations, sent in from Hollywood when Global acquired the Herald-Star and its string of regional papers a year ago. No one in town had paid much attention to him until last week, when Global unleashed its television network. They had bought Channel 13 in Chicago to serve as their flagship and brought in Lacey Dowell, star of Global's wildly successful romance-horror flicks, to appear on the first "Behind Scenes in Chicago" segment—with host Murray Ryerson, "the man who turns Chicago inside out."

Global was launching a "Behind Scenes" feature in each of their major markets. As a hometown girl made good and a Global star, Lacey was the perfect choice for the Chicago launch. Crowds of teenagers as excited as my generation had been by the Beatles lined up to greet her at O'Hare. Tonight they were waiting outside the Golden Glow to catch her arrival.

With the excitement of television and movies on hand, no one could get enough of Edmund Trant. Where he dined, how his mediagenic wife decorated their Oak Brook mansion, all were avidly covered by columnists like Regine Mauger. And when invitations were issued for tonight's party, everyone in Chicago's small media pond was anxious to find the silver-edged ticket in the mail.

Regine and the other gossip columnists weren't of much interest to Trant tonight: I recognized the Speaker of the Illinois House and a couple of other state pols in the group close to him and had a feeling that the man he was talking most to was another businessman. Regine, peevish at being stiffed, made a big show of inspecting the hem of her black satin trousers, to show me I'd torn them or scuffed them or something. As I pushed my way through the melee toward a corner of the bar I heard her say to her counterpart at the Sun-Times, "Who is that very clumsy woman?"

I edged my way to the wall behind Sal's horseshoe mahogany bar. Since my assistant, Mary Louise Neely, and her young protégée Emily Messenger had come with me, I knew I was in for a long evening. In her current manic state Emily would ignore any pleas to leave much before one in the morning. It wasn't often she did something that made her peers jealous and she was determined to milk the evening to the limit.

Like most of her generation Emily was caught up in Lacey-mania. When I said she and Mary Louise could come as the guests my ticket entitled me to, Emily turned pale with excitement. She was leaving for France next week to go to a summer language camp, but that was bore-rine compared to being in the same room with Lacey Dowell.

"The Mad Virgin," she breathed theatrically. "Vic, I'll never forget this until my dying day."

Lacey got the nickname from her lead in a series of horror flicks about a medieval woman who supposedly died in defense of her chastity. She periodically returned to life to wreak vengeance on the man who tormented her—since he kept reappearing through time to menace other young women. Despite the pseudofeminist gloss on the plot, Lacey always ended up dying again after defeating her agelong foe, while some brainless hero cuddled a vapid truelove who had screamed herself breathless for ninety minutes. The films had a cult status among Generation X-ers—their deadly seriousness turned them into a kind of campy self-satire—but their real audience was Emily and her teenage friends, who slavishly copied Lacey's hairstyle, her ankle boots with their crossed straps, and the high-necked black tank tops she wore off the set.

When I got to the end of the bar near the service entrance, I stood on tiptoe to try to spot Emily or Mary Louise, but the crowd was too dense. Sal had moved all the barstools to the basement. I leaned against the wall, making myself as flat as possible, as harassed wait staff rushed by with hors d'oeuvres and bottles.

Murray had moved to the far end of the bar from me, still with the woman in silver gauze. He seemed to be regaling her with the tale of how Sal acquired her mahogany horseshoe bar from the remains of a Gold Coast mansion. Years ago when she was starting out, she got me and her brothers to climb through the rubble to help her haul it off. Watching the woman tilt her head back in a theatrical laugh, I was betting that Murray was pretending he'd been part of the crew. Something about the shape of his partner's face or the full-lipped pout she gave when she was listening was familiar, but I couldn't place her.

Sal stopped briefly by me again, holding a plate of smoked salmon. "I have to stay here till the last dog dies, but you don't—go on home, Warshawski."

I took some salmon and explained morosely that I was waiting on Mary Louise and Emily. "Want me to tend bar? It would give me something to do."

"Be better if you went in the back and washed dishes. Since I don't usually serve food here at the Glow my little washer is blowing its brains out trying to keep up with this. Want me to bring you the Black Label?"

"I'm driving. San Pellegrino is my limit for the evening."

Murray maneuvered his way across the bar with his companion and put his arm around Sal. "Thanks for opening up the Glow to this mob scene. I thought we ought to celebrate at some place authentically Chicago."

He kept an arm around Sal in a protective hug and introduced her to his companion. "Sal Barthele, one of the truly great Chicago stories. Alexandra Fisher, one of the truly great Chicago escapees. And you know V. I. Warshawski."

"Yes, I know Vic." Sal extricated herself from Murray. "Stop showing off, Murray. Not all of us are swooning because you sat in front of a camera for fifteen minutes."

Murray threw back his head and laughed. "That's what makes this a great town. But I was talking to Alex. She and Vic were in law school together."

"We were?" The name didn't ring a bell.

"I've changed a little." Alex laughed, too, and squeezed my hand in a power shake.

I squeezed back, hard enough to make her open her eyes. She had the muscle definition of a woman who worked seriously with weights, and the protruding breastbone of one who survived on lettuce leaves between workouts. I have the muscles of a South Side street fighter, and probably matching manners.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Sara Paretsky is the author of ten other books, including the bestselling Tunnel Vision, Guardian Angel, and Burn Marks. She lives in Chicago with her husband.

Brief Biography

Chicago, Illinois
Date of Birth:
June 8, 1947
Place of Birth:
Ames, Iowa
B.A., Political Science, University of Kansas; Ph.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago

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3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
john19713 More than 1 year ago
I began reading the Warshawski series from the beginning. I noticed that each book was a little more ridiculous than the preceding. "Hard Time" is, IMO, the most ridiculous yet, leaving me shaking my head in disbelief a few times. The most ridiculous event occurred about a third of the way in the book when a dirty cop plants drugs in V.I.'s office. with the intent of framing her for dealing drugs. He also trashes her office to make it look like a break-in. Having had a previous run-in with this dirty cop, V.I. is suspicious when she finds her trashed office, so she does her own search and finds the planted drugs. She flushes the drugs down the toilet before calling the cops to report the break-in. So far so good. But here is where it gets ridiculous. While the first two cops who responded are taking V.I.'s statement, the dirty cop (who is not in the narcotics division by the way) arrives with his own squad and immediately orders his team to search for drugs. Without producing a search warrant, by the way. When the dirty cop can't find the drugs that he planted he knows V.I. was one step ahead of him. He gets so angry that this badge heavy cop openly slaps V.I. in the face. Not once, but twice. In front of his own squad as well as the first two responding beat cops., and then has her handcuffed as they finish the search. Really?? Excessive force, assault and battery, and an illegal search?? And the group of cops who are witnesses to all this don't do anything to stop him? That's going way behind poetic license or whatever it's called. There are a few more incidents that left me shaking my head in doubt. And of course V.I. gets beaten to a pulp and left to die at one point, which seems to be a routine occurrence in the past few books. And last but not least, it ends with a shout-out between V,I. and the bad guy, a very powerful CEO of a large security company. It was entertaining, as all of the Warshawski books have been, but this one really pushed the edge of the envelope of believability.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sarah Paretsky has an agenda and while she has a right to do so,herstory suffers. I have enjoyed previous I.V. Warshawsky's outings but this one is so ridiculous that I could indeed put it down. Nothing makes sense, things happen and people do things only to advance the agenda-never the story. One star is too many.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
To start the V.I. Warshawski series backwards is a strange experience. My first contact with the work of Sara Paretski was in Total Recall, a very effective mixture of hardboiled police investigation and Kindertransport II World War literary drama. It was very good and I was compelled to continue so I got HARD TIME. Full hardboiled thriller, with so many things going on for Warshawski, that even if Paretski sometimes gives away what is going to happen by making the clues too obvious (the wrong folder where Vic puts the Life Story report, the special detective cameras, the t-shirt on Aguinaldo), it still baffles me the strenght of her prose. And well, the incredible names she finds for her characters, the spanish names are funny beyond borders. I was very happy, entertained and thrilled. Great book, great series, will continue with the next one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Private investigator, V. I. Warshawski gets into trouble big time in this novel. She takes on three of the most powerful, corrupt and dangerous men in Chicago. After almost running over a woman's body in the street one night she has a bent cop trying to frame her for causing the injuries and death of the victim. It is this woman, an escapee from prison, who holds the clues to a good deal of the evil going on in the entertainment and media world of Chicago. There are nearly four hundred pages in this book and every one seems to drop Waqrshawski deeper into trouble. One of Paretsky's best.