BREAKDOWN

Written by Sara Paretsky

Review written by Angela Hatherell


BREAKDOWN
Hodder & Stoughton
RRP: £16.99
Released: 21st June 2012
Hbk

This is the latest in a long series of books about V.I. Warsawski, a Private  Eye in Chicago, whose methods are, to say the least, unconventional ruthless. I have read none of the earlier books, I have an irrational dislike of modern American fiction, and is a very long book - over 400 pages - so I approached it with some reluctance.

The beginning was, however, promising. Passing by a deserted cemetery Vic hears children's voices raised in alarm, even panic. Naturally she forces her way through the wall to find a group of  12- or 13- year-old-girls who claim to, have seen a vampire. They are members of one of several book clubs run by Chaim Salanter. (More of him later). One of them claims to have seen a vampire, but when Vic goes to look she finds a dead man laid out on a plinth with a stake through his chest.  Hearing approaching police sirens Vic hustles the girls out of the cemetery and takes them to her cousin's house. This is a long-winded introduction, I know, but it contains important information. Then parentage and background of the girls are important: two go to a high-class school and are daughters of influential people - a prospective Senator and Salanter, a philanthropist supporting the Jewish community, and two, daughters of illegal immigrants, go to public schools. If taken by the police their families would face deportation.

The original theme of the book is Vic's search for the identity of the murdered man. It is a very long and complex search, and leads her to a clinic, to a television broadcasting station run by a fanatical man called Wade Lawlor. It was very difficult to get a grasp of all these characters and institutions, their past connections and their present involvement. Great concentration is needed to get it sorted in your mind,. There is a huge cast of characters, rather a lot of topographical detail - fine if you know Chicago - , the many characters are well brought to life and believable.

As for me, I quite soon gave up bothering who was who and what was what.  It didn’t seem to matter and in no way prevented me from being caught up and swept along in dense and satisfactorily plot. I did enjoy this one, and for a while my prejudice was in abeyance.

Just one afterthought: when a mobile phone was lost in the cemetery, why didn't they just ring it up? Ah but you'll have to read it to find out.  

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