After a century of enmity and mistrust, two neighboring families in Kaw River Valley, Kansas—both descendants of hard-line abolitionists who settled the land in the 1850s—have forged an uneasy truce. The Schapens, rigid Christian Fundamentalists, manipulate the community to promote their agenda and enforce their strict moral code. The idealistic Grelliers, Christians of a more ecumenical bent, try to keep their farm solvent while steering clear of their officious, interfering neighbors. When the heir to another pioneer family, a glamorous lesbian New Yorker rumored to practice Wicca, moves into her long-deserted, ancestral home, the outraged Schapens decide on a course of action that will change the valley forever.
Putnam Adult. 448 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0399154051
"Some brush-clearing, particularly at the beginning when trying to sort through many names, characters and situations, would have been helpful. … The bottom line is that Sara Paretsky has demonstrated in Bleeding Kansas the superb skills as a novelist that were already known and admired by the avid followers of V. I. Warshawski." Jim Lehrer
" If Bleeding Kansas has a weakness, it’s Paretsky’s failure to give us credible, multidimensional villains—also a shortcoming, as she has admitted, in previous novels." Amy Gutman
"It’s a tale about religious extremism and sexual harassment in which the only mystery is the lengths to which farm-family neighbors will go to torment one another." Carol Memmott
Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel
"In the first 100 pages or so, Paretsky struggles with the third-person omniscient voice and the pace of the action. After that, she finds her rhythm, producing a novel that is sometimes improbable but nonetheless haunting." Steve Weinberg
South FL Sun-Sentinel
"Bleeding Kansas is too long by about 100 pages and would have been a stronger story had the plot centered on the families. Despite this, Paretsky’s strong storytelling rises above the novel’s flaws." Oline H. Cogdill
"… [an] unruly melodrama that begins when a glamorous lesbian Wiccan relocates from NYC to the heartland. … To overcomplicate an already hectic narrative, Paretsky throws in star-crossed lovers, fundamentalist Jews, the Iraq war, and a decades-old fire." Jennifer Reese
Fans of V. I. Warshawski, the gritty Chicago private eye, may be surprised to find her absent from Sara Paretsky’s latest work. Paretsky grew up in the Kaw River Valley, and her affection for its countryside, people, and history shines throughout this novel. The regional and historical roots of Paretsky’s characteristic social consciousness are clearly on display in what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calls "a novel of ideas." Despite some complaints of flat characters, cartoonish villains, and a confusing, sometimes implausible, plot, many critics felt that Paretsky’s vibrant storytelling outweighed the novel’s shortcomings. Warshawski fans, take heart: Paretsky reports that the resilient detective is currently in Italy, recovering from a beating she took in Fire Sale (2005), but that she will return in 2009.