Bleeding Kansas

by Sara Paretsky

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Featured image for Bleeding Kansas

I guess I’m a Sara Paretsky completist so I wasn’t put off by this not being a VI book and not even being a mystery. I was pretty much going to enjoy it whatever. That’s probably a good thing because the story is pretty slow to get going. The first quarter of the book or so is a long introduction to place and character and history before the plot really takes off.

The place is Kansas, reading the introduction afterwards I discovered that the book is set in the area where Paretsky herself grew up. The characters are mostly farmers who have been in the area for generations; chiefly the Grellier family, Jim and Susan with teenage children Chip and Lara. The history features the Grellier’s great-great-grandmother Abigail who Susan—tangled up in old diaries and the family history—wants to emulate; history between the families and of the land in the 1970s; and history in the making: the war in Iraq.

After the slow beginning when the book found its stride it entertained me as much as VI could have done, with fifteen year old Lara Grellier having some of the same characteristics as Paretsky’s detective: more brains than sense and a hotheaded ability to get herself into stupidly sticky situations. The book was well grounded in current times with if anything rather too many namedrops for YouTube. The plot had many elements of a mystery without actually being one which was enough for me.

I enjoyed it a lot, and on the whole I think it was a decent book but I’m afraid I don’t think it’ll get Paretsky many readers who aren’t just waiting about for the next VI.