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Book Review

Paretsky’s latest, ‘Critical Mass,’ complements mystery series


bookCourtesy of Beaverdale Books

“Critical Mass”

By Sara Paretsky

Putnam Adult 

Oct. 22, 2013

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa

Hardcover $26.95

465 pp.

“Critical Mass” spans several generations, starting in the years leading up to World War II and ending with the current generation in Chicago. V.I. “Vic” Warshawski, a  private investigator, has been Sara Paretsky’s longtime main character for her mystery series. In this book, Vic is hired by her very good friend, Lotty Herschel, to find Judy Binder, the drug-addicted daughter of a girl with whom Lotty escaped Nazi-occupied Austria. Although Vic finds a murdered drug dealer at the house from where Judy had called, there was no sign of Judy other than a couple of photos.  Vic’s investigation leads her to the door of Judy’s mother, Kitty Binder, and then to an additional search for Judy’s son, Martin.

This tale is interwoven with flashbacks to Nazi research on atomic bombs, Chicago’s role in atomic research and the willingness of the United States to bring former Nazi scientists to this country while, at times, ignoring their past actions. Paretsky skillfully brings other themes into the story, too, such as greed, women’s roles in scientific research, fear of Communism after the war and the impact of war and other horrific acts on the lives of those who experienced them.

Paretsky has once again combined many threads into a gripping tale. Vic is a heroine who risks body and soul to arrive at the truth, giving those involved in her investigation a resolution of long-held secrets. This is a truly absorbing book that resists efforts to set it aside.  Allow for several late nights! CV

Harriet Leitch retired to enjoy her grandchildren, garden, dogs, flute and to return to her love of books.

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