Picks and Pans Review: Blacklist

UPDATED 12/15/2003 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/15/2003 at 01:00 AM EST

By Sara Paretsky

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"You're a determined young woman, aren't you," says a rich doyenne to the Chicago private eye V.I. Warshawski in Paretsky's 11th crime novel. You could say Paretsky is pretty determined herself. Just as Warshawski bulldogs her way to the truth about a crime, Paretsky pounds a story at you so relentlessly that you can appreciate the bone-wearying toll V.I.'s efforts take on her.

In Blacklist the resolutely blue-collar Warshawski stumbles—literally—upon the dead body of a journalist who was investigating the activities of Windy City blue bloods during the McCarthy era. That thrusts V.I. into a hornets' nest of feuds and alliances.

Along the way Paretsky makes pointed comparisons between McCarthyism and what she sees as threats to civil liberties after 9/11. Even if some of the exchanges resemble high-school debates, they add to the deeper currents of the story. And the pace is strong enough to carry the political baggage right along.

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