29 June 2013

Library Limelights 31

Sara Paretsky. Breakdown. New York: New American Library/Penguin Group, 2012.
Another reliable author, tried and true. The invincible V.I. Warshawski is back ... and thank the gods of literature her young cousin Petra, who irritated me quite a bit last time 'round, found a life of her own. Actually it was on Petra's account that Vic whisks a group of tweenage girls away from a cemetery where a fellow private eye was murdered, before the police, parents, and more sinister elements can confront them. To assure me the plot was not about juvenile vampire fans (~whew~), Paretsky swiftly veers into her love of the Chicago political arena—all fictional, mais oui―and Vic's instinctive defence of society's underdogs. Speaking of dogs, Mr. Contreras is still a lively caretaker and general advisor.

In this instance where Vic has no client, the underdogs comprise a bewildering array of psychiatric cases, a slandered holocaust survivor, a would-be politician, media types, and assorted hangers-on of all the above. A sort of something-for-everyone that became so convoluted that I, like Vic, had big trouble identifying pieces of the plot line, let alone the ultimate puzzle picture. A mystery fan can ask for no finer a brain twister. And good news: atypically, Vic does not get beaten up regularly by criminals if we don't count the drastic climax. Don't miss this one.

A witness triggers a memory for V.I.:
"Who would pay a creature like her that much money? I'm thinking he maybe stole drugs from the hospital."Oh, the word on the street—it was like revisiting my childhood, all the local feuds, with each set of immigrants trying to push the other off the bottom rung of the ladder they were all trying to climb. What is it we fear in those who aren't part of our tribe? Is it the old sibling rivalry—who gets the most love, or the last piece of chocolate cake? (233)

Her old friend:
"Don't joke about it, Victoria. Be there. Don't be square. You know where. I'll see you―"I hung up. I'd forgotten Leyton's riddling, rhyming talk. Her clever language, filled with double or even triple entendres, had added to her allure where we first met. In my family, with my slow-talking father, and a mother whose English didn't come easily, I'd never experienced such linguistic fireworks. Later, though, the brilliance had faded from Leyton's speech, leaving only difficult riddles at the core. (81-82)

A touch of the familiar:
It was as I was bouncing through the potholes on my way to the Kennedy that the word "genie" suddenly hit me, so much like a blow between the shoulder blades that I pulled abruptly off the road. Cars honked; a passing driver gave me the finger.Genie. Genealogy. When I questioned Arielle about whether she had met or talked to Miles Wuchnik, Nia had said, "Maybe he was a genie," and both girls had giggled. (275)

James Grippando. Hear No Evil. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004.
More adventures of Miami lawyer Jack Swytek: one of a series I'm following with a dependable author. An unexpected twist in Jack's personal life tends to drive his defence of an accused husband-killer. Guantanamo Naval Station was the murder location, sending him to Cuba on a hopeless quest. Jack's own half-Cuban heritage plays well in this case but he's dealing with other figures who have hidden agendas. The case meets so many snags and stonewalling it becomes impossible to know who, or how many, witnesses are lying. It's one mystery way too tricky to guess up to the last pages.

His good buddy:
"She is totally yanking your chain," said Theo."You think?" said Jack."How many times did I fire your ass when I was on death row?""About every other week.""See. Ten years later, I still can't get rid of you."Jack was about to point out that this was his house, they were cooking his food, and Theo had his carcass parked on Jack's couch every weekend, all of which raised some pretty serious questions as to who couldn't get rid of whom. But Jack decided to leave it alone. (43)

Old Havana:
Over eight hundred of its historically significant structures were built before the twentieth century, some dating back to the 1500s. But after decades of neglect, many of these irreplaceable structures had suffered irreversible damage, and recent restoration efforts aimed at bolstering tourism were simply too little, too late. Despite some convincing paint jobs and face-lifts, it was impossible to ignore the many sagging roofs and crumbling walls. Some parts of south La Habana Vieja resembled Berlin in late 1944, whole sections of walls missing, buildings on the verge of collapse but for the tenuous support of wood scaffolding, entire neighbourhoods held together by crisscrossing ropes and wires from which residents hung the morning laundry.An old woman on a third-floor balcony was hauling up a bucket on a rope."No plumbing?" Jack asked the cabdriver."Not here, senor. If you go for walking, is muy importante that you look over you head. Is not so bad if you get spill from buckets going up. But the ones coming down ...""Yo comprendo," said Jack. I understand. (87-88)

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