Brush Back – Sara Paretsky


brushback300The group had a rather odd reaction to this book – while we mostly enjoyed it, we sure had a lot to complain about.  We found V.I. to be a mostly strong, smart, and likeable character, but she sure got into some bad situations.  We’re not sure how she supports herself because she doesn’t really have any paying clients and she doesn’t seem all that good at what she does.  She’s a bit incongruous with her odd interests and living situation, and she’s a bit of a bulldog.  And not in a good way.

We liked the flavor of Chicago and there was a general agreement that the gritty city was portrayed true to life.

The mystery was interesting enough, though a little confusing.  But we learned that the confusing city politics and neighborhood loyalties were also true to life.

Joan didn’t understand the chapter titles and we generally agreed that there was a lot of unnecessary description which only bogged down the story.

The characters were what kept us engaged and boy, were there a lot of characters!

Favorite – Mr. Contreras; V.I.; Jake was just decoration.  Mr. Villard, the Cubs guy; Bernie, even if she was just a fuse.

Least – Bernie was declared to be useless.  Stella, Anne, Rory, Frank, Father Cardinale.  The cop was awful and unnecessarily snarky.  And then he left V.I. in a terrible neighborhood.  Stella Guzzo was wonderfully awfully awful.  As was Betty Guzzo.  They’re like peas in a pod.  Viola, the girl with the missing brother.  What a whiny little thing.  We wanted to smack her, knowing she wouldn’t smack back.



Cold Betrayal – J.A. Jance

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cold-betrayal-9781476745046_hrWe opened the meeting with a discussion of the author’s prolific-ness and how we, as readers, choose to read a book.  Flap or no flap?  Read the beginning of the book or not?  Turns out, just about everyone reads the flap.  But we were ALL confused by the cover. 

Joan doesn’t read flaps.  She goes in with a blank slate.  And with a name like J.A. Jance, she thought this would be a hard-core police procedural thing.  It turned out to be ridiculously frothy and light.

Joan read the prologue most of the way through and then had to quit because she was convinced that the likeable character of Betsy Peterson was going to get killed in some awful way.  This is why she doesn’t read flaps or beginnings.

It turns out this was an engrossing story.  Well, actually, two engrossing stories.  Our biggest complaint is we kept wondering how the two stories would connect and, in the end, were a little disappointed that they never did.  We learned that this is what the author does.  We also complained about the title “Cold Betrayal”.  Seems like that refers to the Betsy story, where we felt the Enid story was a bigger part of the book, which took place in Arizona, which wasn’t so cold.

I liked both stories and was swept along, but in the end, we found that the Betsy story was wrapped up too neatly and tidily.  But that was okay because we liked her.

As for the Enid story, yes, it kind of blew up in their faces and didn’t end the way expected, but it at least wasn’t very tidy.  But we liked the concept of the story and how it tied with recent current events.  We talked a little about how the successor of the organizer of the group perverted what the original organizer had intended and basically took religion out of it and put power, money, and subjugation in its place.  In the name of religion, of course.

We found it annoying that Ali just threw money at things and they were fixed.  That doesn’t happen in real life, does it?  And the declarations and rehashings of plot points by all and sundry got very old.  We particularly found the governor to be really annoying.  And all of it not terribly true to life.

But for sheer readability, this was entertaining and once Joan finally opened it and committed, quite engrossing.  She thinks she read last half in one sitting.

Favorite characters – Ali, Enid, Sister Anselm, Betsy, Leland (everyone want a Leland!)

Least favorites – Ali, Amos Sellers, Lowell, Sandra, the daughter-in-law, Sheriff Alvarado.