There is nothing more enjoyable for a reader then the feeling of being transported into another place in time. When the author can have a distinct narrative for very different characters from different time periods or even settings without losing focus brings a gripping read that was difficult to put down. My initial expectations were that it would be a high paced private detective story filled with plot twists and dramatic turns. The first chapter in Vienna really threw me for a loop, it was so beautifully written, rich in description and painted a perfect picture for the time period. I was thinking this was going to be arduous, not because it was lyrical and densely written, just because my focus was going to be tested for my comprehension and retention for the later stages. It was not what I signed up for, but that all changed when we went to present day Chicago. I don’t know about the rest of my fellow readers, but when you read crime mysteries do you read in the voice of David Caruso? For me I do, complete with dulcet tones, a stoicism and sharp one-liners, all thanks to the author. When I read transgressive/noir novels I read in a Mickey Rourke voice. However; I must confess that despite my best intentions, I am still trying to find my female voice, any suggestions would be welcome.
“Just at the time that John von Neumann was bringing the first big computer online at Princeton, Edward Breen came up with a relativistic model for the matrix that altered the mechanics of core memory. I read that last sentence three times, and decided that English might not actually be my first language.”
The memory I have of this literary series happens to be that of the 1991 self-titled movie starring the husky seductive voice of Kathleen Turner. Given the public reception of the movie the author may or may not want me to bring this up, but being very young at the time it brings about some of my own nostalgia and influenced me to take a chance on this book. At first I felt it took me a while to get on track with any part of the character’s background, but like an aged scotch it got to me pretty quick.
This is a wonderfully interlaced (I feel compelled to talk about lace for some reason, anyone that has read this will understand) story filled with drug thugs, corporate thugs, homeland security thugs, police thugs, Nazi thugs, let’s just say their is plenty of thuggery to be had in this novel. More importantly there is a lot of heart in the thematic elements of story, parents abandonment of children in favour of their education,careers, and addiction notwithstanding. The idea of compulsion transcends from generation to generation and this book determinedly exposes some of the primary and secondary impacts. From a genius more involved in the next breakthrough in physics, to the CEO looking for the next big acquisition, to the mother looking for her next score. All the glory found in the ends do not always justify the external heartbreak realized in the means.
From my understanding, social class differentiation seems to be a running theme within the V.I. Warshawski series. In early portions of this novel the discussion revolves around the mistreatment of a young Martina by her peers simply due to being a daughter of a seamstress working in an affluent residency. Martina is also denied any recognition for her supreme intelligence because of her social status and religious denomination. Martin is also discriminated by his peers at work due to being a son of a drug addicted mother and not having the financial backing like the others. His gift in computer code and physics is snubbed all because he does not drink Cristal, drive in Maybach’s, or have diamonds in his time piece. His peers don’t care and Martin is not caught up in their love affair 😉
When dealing with common criminals or simply persons of interest Mrs. Warshawski is constantly reminded how she is a private and not a public peace officer. You don’t have a warrant, you can’t get a warrant, so leave. Not to mention the incurred costs that she has to foot the bill, she is seemingly behind the eight ball but is privy to jobs where clients fear the man in the uniform. These are some of the distinctions mentioned in the book with respect to the dynamic of Public vs. Private Investigators, and it goes far beyond a hat.
Their is no need for me to rehash the historical conflict between Nazi Germany and the Jewish people of Europe. Pertaining to this book the conflict is isolated towards the Austrian Jewish people before and after the Anschluss that freed many but also left many behind. This book offers some very thought-provoking revelations, and highlights the power of redemption even at one’s weakened state. There are plenty of examples of how a person’s social status holds no connection to their own true character. From the power hungry Cornell and Edward Breen letting their own family believe one thing while doing another, to Martina showing signs of being an absentee cold hearted mom/woman during a cold hearted time. To me this was a story of pursuing justice but ultimately achieving redemption.
From the start the story grabs you and progresses at a pace similar to a five course meal at a high end restaurant. I was going to say an Italian wedding but I didn’t want to give you the wrong impression that you would be asleep by the end of it, in fact it couldn’t be further from the truth. The slow build up came to a pause for me when I reached the Nevada, Lost Love chapter, from that point the pages were burning away from my enthusiasm to what was coming next. Many review’s of Critical Mass made mention of being a seasoned veteran in the goings on of V.I. Warshawski and may be a little tired or experiencing a burnout with her rogue nature. Well I am here to happily take the baton because this experience for me was a very new and positive one. Recommended