My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When VI’s high school basketball coach becomes gravely ill, VI reluctantly agrees to sub for her. Returning to the scene of her own adolescence stirs up memories, and the poverty of the school and its students disturb her. Being VI, she sets out to solicit a grant from retail giant By-Smart, but her reception is far less than supportive. She also becomes involved in the lives of several of the girls on her team. It doesn’t take long for VI to find herself entangled in a web of commercial sabotage, and when the heir to the By-Smart empire goes missing, the family hires her to locate him.
Sarah Paretsky is renowned for the social issues she incorporates into her plots, and in Fire Sale, corporate greed, extreme religious fundamentalism, and the plight of recent immigrants all share center stage. This novel, however, lacks the suspense that her readers have come to expect, in spite of the physical dangers that VI and other characters encounter. That does not mean that it is not worth reading; Paretsky exposes the underside of the big box business model and the impact it has on the lives of its customers and workers. She also does a remarkable job in contrasting the lifestyles and needs of two very different families. VI is a PI who lets her conscience be her guide.