Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Burning Kansas by Sara Paretsky

This month for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club I'm writing about Sara Paretsky's Bleeding Kansas.

I have a bit of a thing for V.I. Warshawski, and to tell the truth I have a bit of a thing for her creator, Sara Paretsky, too. I'm a member of Sisters in Crime, a group Paretsky founded, and I've heard her speak in person. All of this increased my admiration for Paretsky and her work.

So when I heard that she had written a new novel - not a mystery and not starring Warshawski - I was intrigued. Especially because it's set in Kansas. Hey, I lived in Kansas for 11 years. Now she really had my attention. (Paretsky grew up in Kansas, too.)

So I bought the book for my dad (also a Paretsky/Warshawski fan) as a thank you gift for driving to Inconvenient, Illinois to pick up my girls' new bike and saving us $150 in shipping costs.

Naturally, I read the book before gifting it. What, you don't do that? Oh. Well, I do. Just as naturally, he already owned the book and had really enjoyed it.

Which is good, because I was sort of "meh" about it.  Paretsky is a wonderful writer.  I just had trouble connecting with any of the characters in this novel, by which I mean that I didn't really like anybody.  Perhaps I was in a crabby mood that week.  But by page 200 I was caught up enough in the story that I barely minded that I didn't care very much about the characters.  Parts of the novel read a bit heavy, like a massive information dump.  Fortunately, the history was pretty interesting and I enjoyed it.  (Reading Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson prepped me by giving me background on the anti-slavery politics of Civil War-era Kansas.)

So, to conclude: if you like history, you might check this out.  If you're interested in pioneers and settlers and the history of slavery in our country, you might find this interesting.  If you'd like a picture of non-cookie-cutter politics in America's heartland today, you might check this out.  But if you're a Paretsky/Warshawski fan looking for the sort of hard-boiled Chicago P.I. page turner we're both used to, well, you won't really find that here.

(Note: this novel was new in 2008. I'm a little behind. And the Amazon reviews are humorously mixed.)

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