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Hard Time (V.I. Warshawski Novels) Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 2000

3.9 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

V.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky's tough-talking, dog-loving, justice-seeking private investigator has been missing in action since 1994, when she ratted out a big city political scandal on the streets of Chicago in Tunnel Vision. But now our Vic is back for her ninth adventure--a wee bit older, a tad more jaded, and as broke as ever. It all begins when Warshawski weasels an invitation to the hottest event in town, a glitzy party celebrating television's brightest new star, Lacey Dowell, or, as she's better known, the Mad Virgin. Vic's old pal (and one-time fling) Murray Ryerson now works for Global Enterprises, the corporate giant behind the Lacey sensation. On the way back from the party, Vic almost runs over a woman lying in the middle of the road, her Mad Virgin T-shirt soaked in blood from an earlier beating. The victim, Nicola Aguinaldo, dies in hospital, and Vic quickly realizes that a particularly nasty cop, Detective Lemour, intends to frame her for vehicular homicide. Her anger at these absurd charges hits the boiling point when Nicola's body disappears from the morgue before an autopsy can be carried out. Why was this woman, an escapee from the local Coolis prison, so important to Lemour? And why does the whole Mad Virgin phenomenon smell so rotten? "I didn't want to dive into Nicola Aguinaldo's wreck," V.I. grouses, "but it felt as though someone had climbed up behind me on the high board to give me a shove." In her search for answers, Warshawski runs afoul of Global Enterprises magnate Edmund Trant, and Robert Baladine, the head honcho of the nation's biggest security firm. They have enough clout to have V.I. thrown into Coolis for another crime she did not commit. But incarceration gives the resourceful Vic a perfect opportunity to snoop into Nicola's last days there--and uncover a sensational scandal.

As she has done throughout the series, Paretsky brilliantly juxtaposes strikingly different environments. Here she contrasts the dilapidated environs of the jail with the exorbitant homes of Chicago's filthy rich. In fact, readers who have anxiously awaited V.I. Warshawski's return will be glad to find that little has changed in her world. Mitch and Peppy the wonder dogs are as endearing as ever, her landlord, Mr. Contreras, is his normal fearless self, and V.I. is victorious. It really is like coming home. --Naomi Gesinger --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers 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 enclaveAwhere 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.Aand Sara P. Major ad/promo; 9-city author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: V.I. Warshawski Novels
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Dell (September 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440224705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440224709
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.6 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I bought Hard Time on a whim having dimly remembered the Kathlene Turner movie. I was expecting a standard tough cookie woman detective novel and instead got a great read.
The book starts off with VI almost running over the body of an "escaped" woman prisoner and rapidly develops into a complex web of Chicago politics, media scheming, and win at all costs capitalism. All without Paretsky losing her lightness of touch and humorous prose.
Although the final third of the novel becomes rather uncomfortable because of the unremitting terrors of the womans' prison scenes, the book achieves important social commentary without being exploitive or in your face. As VI points out, this is an area of society that we non criminals never think about and if we do we reflexively agree that it should come with truckloads of punishment.
The key villain and wife, Eleanor, seem too evil to be real and the final confrontation in church is a little too contrived and symbolic. Overall though I gave it five stars for being a real page turner.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading Paretsky is like going back to visit old friends. As this series progresses, I've noticed that the stories have become more socially relevant. I agree with other Amazon reviewers that V.I. taking so many physical risks in her 40's is getting just plain stupid, but Paretsky's writing and plotting is so good, it's hard to nit pick.
One thing: I started reading this series years ago. V.I. ages, but Golden Retreiver Peppy must be about 20 years old by now. Similarly, Old Lottie and Mr. Contreras must be about 100.
Nontheless, for fans of Sara Paretsky, her books are too few, and too far between. This is one of her best.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Being a mystery writer with my first book in its initial release, I fondly recall reading Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski series to see how a star of crime fiction developed one of the top mystery series of our time. Then, V.I. vanished. After approximately five years, Paretsky has written a fresh V.I Warshawski mystery, and HARD TIME is as impressive as her earlier works. V.I. and her supporting cast have aged, and Murray has switched from print to television journalism. Murray's career evolution indirectly lands V.I. at a celebrity party that launches this adventure. There is an automobile accident, police abuse of power, corporate corruption, and V.I. standing up to the powers that be. She lands in prison, and our dog-loving detective uses that opportunity to expose more crimes. HARD TIME is a fabulous book, capturing Chicago and its environs in a way few other authors do. I'm thrilled V.I. has returned to the literary scene.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Not only do I think "Hard Time" is the best of Sara Paretsky's novels, but I think this is the best mystery novel I've read in the past couple of years. Not to knock her previous novels, but some how this one seems to have taken her writing to a new level. Don't ask me to tell you why it's her best, though. Tighter plotting? Maybe -- but Paretsky could always tell a story. Deeper characters? Again, maybe. But they're the same crew of good guys she's always used. Perhaps it was the criminals -- there are many in this story -- and they are much darker and much more realistic than the villains of her previous novels. Or perhaps it was just the rawness of story that coolly describes the ways the powerless abused by the powerful. Anyway, I just put down "Hard Time", and I still haven't put my finger on why I think it's so good -- however, I would have given this novel six stars, but five is the maximum allowed by amazonian law.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
V.I. is not a detective out of the English drawing room style. She is an original, and as such will be appreciated or rejected by the degree that you look for originality in your mysteries. The plot is deliciously complicated, hard to anticipate, and moves along nicely. Although some will quibble that the whole thing is improbable, it could be made very probable with one small change in the motives of the killers. As such, I'd have to say this is by far the most sophisticated and exciting of the books in the series. V.I. is a lot like Robert Parker's Spenser: Principle is the thing. In an age when many unthinkingly take the easy way out, it is valuable to explore what a modern Dona Quixote would do. V.I. fills the bill perfectly in this fine novel which rises above the detective genre into regular fiction. Keep up the good work!
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Format: Hardcover
It's nice to finally have VI Warshawski back on the mystery scene. I'm sure it's a challenge for an author to stick with one genre year after year but VI had become such a central figure on the mystery scene that I was really angry with Paretsky for leaving her out of the picture for several years now.
VI is in top form in Hard Time. Things have changed as we learn her relationship with Murray is much strained as a result of the takeover of the leading Chicago news outlets since her last book. Mr. Contreras is still looking out for her and VI is still getting herself into hot water with the local police. Yet, as usual, she prevails. A great return. Let's have more VI on a regular basis now that Paretsky has experimented with a couple of other writing genres for the past few years! VI reigns!
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