My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Shell Game by Sara Paretsky is the 19th book in the VI Warshawski series about a Chicago private eye who solves crimes. I read 2/3 of the series several years ago, then got sidetracked for the last five. I decided to catch up on them this summer, in preparation for the 20th book’s launch in early 2020. While the books are good, this one wasn’t as strong as the others. I ended up with a 3.5 stars but I’ll wind down even though I think the author is superb. I’m glad I have at least 6 months before the next one will be ready, as maybe with a fresh mind, I’ll love it even more.
In Shell Game, Lotty’s nephew has been arrested by ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement). He’s Canadian but has darker skin, and in all probability, he was included solely based on his association with Middle Eastern students who were the prime target. Weeks later, a dead body surfaces, and he begs VI to go with him to view the victim; apparently, the police think he’s guilty, yet he doesn’t even know the man. At the same time, VI’s ex-husband’s nieces show up. One is missing, the other is a bit of a troublemaker. The stories begin to interweave, and this is where I had some concerns about the plot.
Part of me felt this was the kind of tale where someone said “Choose ICE, Syria, politics, missing statues, and the Russian mob, then create a book.” I didn’t feel connected to the characters, nor did I think it was a very original story. I didn’t like that VI’s ex-husband was central to the plot, especially because he did something wrong. We never quite get the whole story, nor do we see enough of an apology at the end between him and VI. That said, putting those items aside, the book had merit. I enjoyed the chase scenes. VI was hurt a lot, which always feels wrong but serves a good purpose. She met a new guy. She used her brain to solve the crime. And there were a bunch of interesting turns I hadn’t expected.
The other thing that bites a little is the timeline. I know the author is trying to keep as true as possible to current events and VI’s real age, but… random Trump references felt out of place. Though published in 2018, the actual time probably should’ve been ~2010. I can suspend my disbelief, but at the same time, name-dropping to hit home the point is a little below Paretsky. Her work shines even without the little digs (even if I agree with them!). If this were my first in the series, I wouldn’t rush back to it. Knowing the author is a genius at weaving multiple threads, I’ll always come back to her books. Hopefully the next one shines even more.
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For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic Curveball, Broken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.