Veteran PI Victoria Warshawski loves Chicago, but she certainly is not blind to the social and political problems embedded deep into the fabric of her hometown. As Hardball opens, she is returning from a long overdue vacation to her now-deceased mother’s homeland, Italy. Having made contact with her mom’s family, VI feels closer than ever to her, but some of the joy has been tempered by her breakup with her boyfriend just before leaving for home. Now bummed out by her seeming inability to sustain relationships and friendships, VI returns to face the mountain of work on her desk. Pressured by a social worker into taking on a thorny, very cold missing person case, VI reluctantly begins her search. Meanwhile, her ditsy young cousin, Petra, makes a sudden appearance into her life.
VI’s new case proves to be a challenging and dangerous one. A deadly mixture of politics, racism, and deadly Warshawski family secret prove to be overwhelming, and it takes every ounce of VI’s strength, both physically and morally, to avoid her own destruction. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that adage certainly applies here.
Once again author Paretsky brings her considerable skills to producing an intricate, nuanced novel with themes both personal and historical. History certainly can, and does, repeat itself. This is no pulp mystery, but a compelling, carefully crafted story about one person’s struggle to come to grips with the uglier truths of life, without succumbing herself.