Legendary sleuth V.I. Warshawski returns to the Windy City to save an old friend’s nephew from a murder arrest. As V.I. investigates, the detective soon finds herself tangling with the Russian mob, ISIS backers, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen art that stretches from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East.
For the most part, Shell Game is about what readers have come to expect from Paretsky. The elaborate plot is a little far-fetched, though that’s par the norm for the thriller genre, but not so complicated that it can’t be easily followed. Newcomers may struggle a bit with getting up to speed on various characters, which is to be expected if you haven’t read the previous books. Really, it’s the lack of suspense that feels like a miss here. Readers will guess the bad guy early, which significantly lowers the stakes for the rest of the story. Diehard fans of the series may not care because they love the characters and will happily follow them until the book’s end, but casual readers may find the final act lacking even though the writing itself is really good ... another twisting mystery that’s finely written, even if the suspense never reached nail-biting levels.
As is usually the case with Paretsky’s novels, there is considerable social and political commentary, so if you are a capital-C Conservative, you might want to give some thought to how much you are willing to have your convictions challenged. Everyone else can revel in the superb pacing, the well-developed characters and the crisp dialogue from one of the most consistently excellent writers in the genre.