Sara Paretsky also has an agenda. Again and again, she builds her novels around crimes that we often dismiss as "white collar." These crimes may start as clerical numbers games, but as their effects ripple into their community, bodies start to fall in the effort to protect corporate greed. In Fire Sale a gigantic chain of discount department stores By-Smart, "the fifth largest corporation in America" (make whatever connections you feel like making, but I'm sure they would be only "coincidental") is owned by one self-satisfied and self-righteous family who will go to any lengths to protect their investments. Warshawski's effort to uncover those methods and their murderous consequences is what keeps the readers turning the pages of this novel.
The plot of Fire Sale is masterfully handled, and there is a wonderful cast of characters. The bad guys are really bad, even when they are immediately recognizable as types that dominate many communities. There is a girls' basketball team in a neglected high school that is filled with memorable young women who become directly involved in the action and violence that resolves the novel. Warshawski against her better judgment takes over as coach of these girls. As she has always been, V. I. Warshawski is absolutely the best thing in her novel: tough but lovable, a detective always willing to help the needy but never too far from her Smith & Wesson.
Paretsky reads from Fire Sale at Nicola's Books on Wednesday, July 6.