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Sara Paretsky is my kind of mystery writer. She provides all the usual entertainment — the suspense, the engaging characters, the cleverly complex plots — found in all top-notch mysteries and thrillers, but she’s political, too.

Now, I don’t mean political in the sense that Paretsky takes sides in partisan battles. I’m referring to how her protagonist (alter ego?) is conscious of the social and economic issues involving race, money, and corruption that underpin reality in today’s Chicago, her home town, and how she seeks out opportunities to battle misdeeds among the powerful. Oh, and I love how that protagonist, private investigator V. I. (Victoria) Warshawski, is also a wise guy in the decades-old tradition of smart-mouth detectives. (Can you say “guy” about a woman? I hope that’s not sexist.)

Critical Mass (V. I. Warshawski #18) by Sara Paretsky @@@@ (4 out of 5)

For Paretsky fans, Critical Mass won’t disappoint. V. I.’s current case thrusts her into an historical mystery with its roots in Holocaust-era Vienna that plays itself out in Chicago at an industry-leading computer firm, the stock market, a meth lab, small-town police and sheriff’s departments, and several visits to hospital emergency rooms. This book is a glorious mashup of disparate issues and circumstances. I loved it. If you like mysteries, you will, too.

Critical Mass is Sara Paretsky’s 16th novel in the V. I. Warshawski series, for which she has won numerous awards. She has an MBA and a PhD in history from the University of Chicago. She is married to a professor of physics at the University of Chicago, which helps to explain the many references to that field in Critical Mass.

For additional reading

Previously, I reviewed two earlier V. I. Warshawski novels, Breakdown (The latest detective story from Sara Paretsky hits home) and Body Work (Sara Paretsky’s aging detective fights corruption in Chicago).

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