Book Review: Shell Game


Title: SHELL GAME [#19] Author: Sara Paretsky
Publisher: William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062868237
Genre: Mystery | Detective


When V. I Warshawski gets word that her closest friend and mentor Lotty Herschel’s nephew has become a suspect in a murder, the legendary detective will do everything she can to save him. The cops found Felix Herschel’s name and phone number on the unknown victim’s remains, but Felix insists he doesn’t know why.

As Vic digs deeper, she discovers that the dead man was obsessed with Middle Eastern archeology—the first clue in a bewildering case that leads to a stolen artifact and a shadowy network of international criminals. But the trouble multiplies when Vic’s long lost niece, Reno, goes missing. A beautiful young woman with a heartbreaking past and a promising future, Reno is harboring a secret that may cost her, her life. V. I. can hear the clock ticking on her niece’s safety and is frantic in her efforts to find her.

Vic won’t leave any stone unturned until these very personal cases are cleared—a complex investigation that will entangle the Russian mob, ISIS backers, rogue ICE agents, a nefarious corporation preying on the poor, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen antiquities stretching from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East.

In Shell Game, no one can be trusted and nothing is what it seems, except for the indomitable detective and her thirst for justice.


I was once again absolutely captivated reading the latest installment of Sara Paretsky’s now iconic detective series, Shell Game. In which we see Vic chasing down answers to not one mystery, but two. Paretsky’s MC is steadfast and resolute and will not give up on either case, while chasing down leads that, more often than not, throw up far more questions than answers.

Two seemingly distinct cases that, in fact, slowly merge in that inimitable way Paretsky has of telling her stories, bit by bit. Till it becomes obvious, through Vic’s relentless digging and uncovering of connections, that the implication of Felix in a murder, is tied to the disappearance and kidnapping of Harmony’s sister, Reno.

From stolen artefacts to war torn Syria. From the Oriental Institute to a cleaning company servicing the offices of Vic’s ex-husband, the unscrupulous and ambitious Dick and his new wife, to Homeland Security and ICE agents who think nothing of shooting first and asking questions later. Shell Game is one wirld ride

What I also love about Paretsky, is the way she weaves any number of current social and political threads into her stories. Managing to include, albeit, obliquely, the worst of the Trump presidency setting aspects of her story in and around migrants and refugees living in fear—struggling in an alien and hostile environment, not unlike those they’ve fled elsewhere.

Warshawski—steadfast in her principals—fights for injustice in a world where the odds always seem to be stacked against her. And in a political climate that has become terrifyingly dangerous for those at the bottom of the social ladder, living a precarious existence, feeling powerless to exert change. Loyal to those she loves and cares about, Warshawski continues to do battle and bravely takes on corporate America, as in Shell Game, and yes, occasionally wins.

You can always be sure that in a Sara Paretsky novel, the plots are well conceived and constructed and usually tie-in to current social and political issues. And that the characters are well developed and the writing top-notch.

Rating: 9.85 / 10

Previous Snippets Of News
Next Top 5 Tuesday: Book Spines


  1. March 7, 2019

    I always enjoy spotting current events in books i read. That is when i actually realize them… haha 😀
    You rated this super high, so i’m gonna put this series on my watch list!

    • March 7, 2019

      From the very first book this series has gotten better. And while there are things that happen that some would say, read from book one, I think you can pretty much pick up any in the series and go with it. Paretsky makes them all standalone by way of a good read.

      I’ve grown up with Vic, so she’s got a place in my heart, and I’m a sucker for a feisty female MC. 😀

  2. March 4, 2019

    Oh wow Alexandra! It seems really elaborate but not in an unbelievable way on the contrary! Wonderful review and …you got me intrigued here!!! Soon a “crime lover”? LOL

    • March 4, 2019

      What is a genre other than the window dressing to the story. So don’t confine yourself to only every looking in one window display, live a little, right? 😉

  3. It sounds wonderfully complex and captivating! I also thoroughly enjoy novels where the author has the skill to bring two very different storylines come together! Always such a joy to discover that binding factor! Great review Alexandra!

    • March 4, 2019

      That’s what makes Sara Paretsky one of the best, she always has several threads that all, somehow, and quite logically, come together, at the end. She’s detail orientated and if you follow the breadcrumbs, you always have a fun ride.

      And thanks, Inge, I appreciate that.

  4. I have GOT to start this series, especially since I have the first two books. Love the points you express in your review about Warshawski’s principles, as well as the rest of your comments.

    • March 4, 2019

      I have been with this series since the beginning, and have loved each and every novel, because Sara Paretsky always manages to make each one so different and yet, at the same time, they all have the same dynamic. So you know exactly what you’re going to get.

      I do hope you enjoy Vic as much as I have done, over the years, Jonetta. 😀

Leave a reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *