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Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novel) Hardcover – September 29, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: V.I. Warshawski Novel
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (September 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399150854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399150852
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,227,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Privilege, politics, and perfidy jointly propel the circuitous plot of Blacklist, Sara Paretsky's 11th novel featuring tenacious Chicago private-eye V.I. Warshawski. By the time this story runs its course, V.I. will have harbored an alleged Arab terrorist, resurrected the ghosts of America's 1950s anti-Communist hysteria, and questioned the integrity of a man she once admired "to the point of hero worship." In other words, it's a typical case for this hard-headed, sarcastic, and perpetually sleep-deprived sleuth.

Still suffering from "exhaustion of the spirit" in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, V.I. is hired to find out who may be sneaking into a vacated suburban mansion. Geraldine Graham, the home's 91-year-old former owner, who still lives nearby, claims she's seen lights in the attic at night. Our heroine suspects this is simply a bid by the wealthy dowager for greater attention, but agrees to do some nocturnal prowling--only to stumble (literally) across the body of a dead black journalist, Marcus Whitby, in the estate’s ornamental pond and encounter a teenage girl fleeing the scene. The girl turns out to be Catherine Bayard, the granddaughter of Calvin Bayard, an unapologetically liberal book publisher who survived a hounding by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee in the '50s without being blacklisted like so many of his authors. Digging deeper, V.I. learns that Whitby was doing research for a book about an African-American dancer and anthropologist who had enjoyed Bayard's support before she too was branded a Communist. Was Whitby killed en route to visit Bayard, one of Graham's neighbors--and a man who has strangely vanished from public view? And is there any connection between this murder and the disappearance of an Egyptian dishwasher, or the recent demise of a right-wing attorney and Bayard foe, in whose apartment V.I. is attacked by an intruder?

Except for a few astounding turns of luck (including the 11th-hour discovery of a revealing audiotape left in a car's player), Paretsky rolls out a credible yarn here, enriched by meticulous character development and an agreeably ambiguous conclusion. The author's intention to link McCarthy-era abuses with post-9/11 government assaults on civil rights is obvious, without being didactic, and it adds currency to a fictional investigation that's already rife with sex, betrayal, and long-held secrets among the rich. It's good to see that V.I. the P.I. hasn't lost the compassion or righteousness that first made her attractive two decades ago, in Indemnity Only. --J. Kingston Pierce

From 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Sara Paretsky is the award-winning creator of the V I Warshawski detective novels. When Sara introduced V I in Indemnity Only in 1982, she revolutionized the mystery novel. By creating a female investigator who uses her wits as well a her fists, Sara challenged a genre in which women were traditionally either vamps or victims.

V I is the quintessential urban woman. She grew up in the shadow of the old steel mills on Chicago's Southeast side and knows her way around every alley in town. She's a street fighter, a singer, a bit of a clothes horse, and a woman of great intensity and passion.

So how much like V I is her creator? They certainly come from very different places. Sara grew up in rural Kansas where she attended a two-room school. She continues to believe the high point of her life came at the age of twelve when she was picked to play third base for the Kaw Valley District 95 baseball team.

Bleeding Kansas, Sara's 14th novel, is set in the part of the Kaw River Valley where Sara grew up.

Sara first came to Chicago in 1966 to do community service work in the same neighborhood where Martin Luther King was organizing. It was a time of fierce passions in the city and in the country as people fought over racial justice, the rights and wrongs of the war in Vietnam, and women's rights. Sara has always felt that that summer changed her life forever, and when she finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas, she came back to make Chicago her home. Some of the history of that summer is recounted in her essay collection, Writing in an Age of Silence.

Like V I, Sara likes to sing, in an amateur way, has a hopeless passion for the Cubs, loves Italian shoes'and is obsessed by the search for the perfect cappuccino, so much so that she even went to cappuccino school.

In other academic ventures, Sara received a PhD in American History and an MBA from the University of Chicago. In 1976, she married physics professor Courtenay Wright. The two live in the city of Chicago with their wonder dog Callie. Their lives are made brighter by their adored granddaughter, Maia.

Sara shares V I's passion for social justice. She founded Sisters in Crime in 1986 to support women readers and writers in the mystery world. To give back to the community, Paretsky established the Sara and Two C-Dogs Foundation, which primarily supports girls and women in the arts, letters, and sciences. She has endowed several scholarships at the University of Kansas, and has mentored students in Chicago's inner city schools. She serves on the advisory boards of Literature for All of Us, a literacy group for teen moms, and Thresholds, which serves Chicago's mentally-ill homeless.

Sara has received numerous awards, including the Diamond Dagger for Lifetime achievement from the British Crime Writers Association, the Gold Dagger for best novel for her book Blacklist, and the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from several different universities. Sara's books have been translated into almost thirty languages.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on October 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The first Paretsky book I read, I knew I was going to have to read all of them. And I have, and I'm still not tired of this V. I. Warshawski broad, Chicago private eye.
Blacklist deals with the long-term effects of discrimination and guilt. A friend of Vic's (V. I.) asks her to investigate possible trespassing in the family mansion where she grew up. Here's a good scene: on her first foray into the property in years, she stumbles into a cruddy pond and comes up holding hands with some dead guy. Turns out he's a black journalist writing about stuff from the 30s. Things get deeper and murkier when the man's sister asks Warshawski to investigate the murder.
I get the feeling that Paretski has done some fantastic research in the writing of this book, as the content spans cultures, generations, and politics over 70 yrs as she proves that prejudice is alive and well in our world.
No big surprise there, but she does it so very, very well.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Fine novels have always transcended their story lines to say something more universal about the way people are. Often, mystery novelists get caught up in their plots and fail to make an important statement. In Blacklist, Ms. Sara Paretsky provides an intriguing look at American politics, racism and sexism over the last century. It's an impressive job of impugning the motives and methods of the influential, powerful and wealthy in our society. Those who are ardent conservatives will hate this book. It isn't as tough on the liberals as it is on the conservatives during most of the book, and argues strongly against government challenges to our Constitutional rights, such as the Patriot Act and the Congressional search for Communists in the 1950s.
The mystery is a fine one, and makes good use of the over 400 pages to develop the story slowly . . . allowing it to age in your mind like fine wine does. I especially liked the way that V.I. encountered many emotional and physical problems during the story that delayed and complicated her investigations, much like happens in real life.
The book has two main weaknesses. First, it is too often preachy rather than illustrative or instructive. Second, Ms. Paretsky is too cynical for my taste about how much the powerful can get away with. She leaves us with the sense that we are powerless to protect those we love and ourselves from what the powerful want for their own personal agendas. Otherwise, I would have happily assigned this book five stars.
I would like to commend Ms. Paretsky for working some of the worst characteristics of the Patriot Act into her story, illustrating problems that too few people are aware of.
The story itself has two entertwined plot lines that coincidentally connect up on an empty estate.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Laura A Jackson on March 11, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is another great V.I. Warshawski book. She does a great job in evoking Chicago and the current political environment. My main critique would center on number of characters and the complexities of their ancient histories which makes it a bit of a challenge in terms of keeping the cast of characters straight. In addition to the main plot, the subtext of the story comprises a compelling weaving of various histories... of African Americans, leftists and gays... and the challenges they have faced in various times in our recent history. The juxtaposition of the current "Patriot Act" environment with the MacArthy era is an effective way of demonstrating the perils of an unencumbered police state and judiciary. While some may prefer more 'timeless' Miss Marple type mysteries where there is little reference to the current sociopolitical context, weaving current challenges into the story makes it even more interesting, and in some ways, educational.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By K. Freeman on October 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book.
V.I. must face corruption among the scions of rich families, and the ghosts of 1950's witchhunts rise up to threaten the civil liberties of the modern day.
This was a stronger book, in my opinion, than the recent "recovered memory" Warshawski book, and probably better than the "women's prison" one as well, though I liked that. Paretsky has created a strong and real-seeming character who continues to appeal through multiple novels; the plot is both exciting and plausible; and, unlike in some installments, the antagonists in Blacklist are believable.
I like Paretsky's politics, as expressed in her books: left-wing in the sense of humanist concern for the working class, rather than in the sense of silly New Agey political correctness. This sensible point of view is one of the books' attractions, especially compared to the radical-right-wing paranoia of some other mystery/thriller authors.
Blacklist provides a good balance of action and character-centered drama, with some trenchant critique of modern politics thrown in. I highly recommend it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mita on February 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
isn't it interesting to read the reviews and notice that what made me like this book is what others critized. My question here is- why is Paretsky supposed to leave all politics out of her novels? I enjoyed her drawing parallels between the patriot-act/ post 911 era and the Mc Carthy era. It was a fun entanglement of past and present in every way, couldn't put it down.
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