Private eye V.I. is back with a bang

After a four-year hiatus — during which time author Sara Paretsky was anything but idle, publishing a collection of essays and the non-mystery novel “Bleeding Kansas” — Chicago private investigator V.I. Warshawski makes a characteristically noisy return in “Hardball.”

Smarting a little from a breakup but rested from a trip to Italy, V.I. takes on a 40-year-old missing-person case just as her human hurricane of a cousin, Petra, blows into town with a new job. As headstrong V.I. delves into the case, it leads her to prison chats with an incarcerated gang leader who may have some information, to a decades-old murder that happened during a violent civil rights demonstration, to her late father and his not-so-by-the-book comrades on the police force, to nuns who work at a social-justice center, and finally to the senatorial campaign her cousin is working on.

In her rich, unhurried story, Paretsky builds layer upon layer of seemingly unrelated connections, intrigue and long-buried secrets. But this is Paretsky, and we know she’ll tie it all together eventually, as well as weaving in social issues —contemporary and historical, in this book — along the way. A definite point of view comes through, but it’s part of the story, not tangential preaching.

As V.I. digs deeper into the history of the South Side and the cases that some people would rather not see reopened, she’s in no small amount of danger, and when a nun is killed and Petra goes missing, the urgency mounts and the pages fly. It’s hard to tell who’s scarier: the leader of the Anacondas, the eavesdropping feds or the ruthless campaign manager. But we know who’ll eventually come out on top, and we’re rooting for her all the way.

If you go



What: Reading and book-signing by novelist Sara Paretsky, author of the V.I Warshawski detective series

Where: Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas

When: 7 p.m. Friday

How much: Free

For more information, call 316-682-1181.