In her twelfth novel, Sara Paretsky’s feisty detective, V. I. Warshawski, is in her usual form, drawing on raw courage and native intelligence (and a few of her late father’s connections in the Chicago police force) to investigate the death of a young black journalist whose body she finds in a pond in an elite Chicago suburb. She discovers the body while investigating mysterious lights which the mother of her long-standing employer Darraugh Graham has seen in an uninhabited mansion near where she lives in a wealthy gated community. The mystery of the lights in Larchmont Hall gradually joins with the mysterious death of Marcus Whitby, the journalist, who has been working on a story about an African American dancer whose soaring career was halted in the 1950’s when she was revealed to have had Communist party connections. A third element of the mystery surfaces with the appearance of a young Arab suspected of connections with terrorist organizations. And always in the back of her mind, Warshawski is thinking of her lover Morrell, a journalist currently working in Afghanistan, whose infrequent e-mails leave her fearful for his life.
In the course of her investigations, Paretsky finds many occasions for her detective to examine the influence of money on American life as Warshawski uncovers a complex maze of marriages and love affairs among the rich of the previous generations. Warshawski also voices her concerns about the Patriot Act (which she suspects of allowing federal agents to tap her phone) and about the terrible consequences of witch- hunting, whether for Communists or terrorists. Paretsky’s novels are always a satisfying blend of thought and action; Blacklist is no exception.