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Critical Mass (V.I. Warshawski #16)

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  2,347 Ratings  ·  446 Reviews
V.I. Warshawski’s closest friend in Chicago is the Viennese-born doctor Lotty Herschel, who lost most of her family in the Holocaust. Lotty escaped to London in 1939 on the Kindertransport with a childhood playmate, Kitty Saginor Binder. When Kitty’s daughter finds her life is in danger, she calls Lotty, who, in turn, summons V.I. to help. The daughter’s troubles turn out ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published August 1st 2013)
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Kelly Hager
Jun 17, 2015 Kelly Hager rated it it was amazing

I feel like every time we talk about Sara Paretsky and VI Warshawski, I mention that this is one of my favorite series ever, and that both Paretsky and Warshawski are personal heroes of mine.

This book is a huge example for why. The thing about VI Warshawski is that she will always do what's right, even when there's a huge threat to herself. It's almost like the bigger the threat is to herself, the more determined she becomes to get to the bottom of whatever is going on. (In a marked contrast to
Aug 07, 2014 Lori rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
I do love the VI Warshawski series and think Vic is a great female character, tough when she needs to be and yet her concern and caring for the downtrodden, mistreated or misunderstood is always so very obvious in each story. This story in particular, however, was disappointing to me compared to Ms. Paretsky's other novels. I was intrigued by the plot that traversed back and forth between present day and pre and post WWII Austria. That glimpse into what VI's friend Lotty lived through during tha ...more
Jul 02, 2015 Sue rated it really liked it
Critical Mass is a complicated, multi-layered mystery with its roots set in WWII Europe and the Nazi quest for scientific breakthroughs. The current situation is more mundane but also filled with everyday tragedy: the tragedy of drug abuse, the sadness of lost identity, fear of unknowns, even misunderstanding by those who are usually seen as "good." V.I. Warshawski is thrown into this because of her years long friendship with Lotty, herself a child escapee from Germany. She is sent on a search f ...more
Alan Mills
Aug 04, 2016 Alan Mills rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery-crime
As usual, V. I. Warshawski delivers! A detective in the hard boiled tradition--with the twist that she is a woman, working in Chicago--vaguely in Uptown and surrounding neighborhoods.

This time, a missing young drug addict (daughter of a friend of V.I.'s close friend, Dr. Herschel, is missing. This simple errand sends us back along a path to Dr. Herschel's days in the Jewish Ghetto in occupied Vienna before WWII. Nazis, computers, Holland security and the atom bomb all make appearances--as does a
Complex clue trail told in flashbacks with a wide variety of characters particularly focused over the generations. Definite nods to the Jews of WWII which is arguably becoming a worn out topic.

The audio person, Susan Ericksen, for this was amazing with some of her voices/accents. I really like how she did the Old School Chicago neighbor. That was awesome.

Now, why am I only giving this a B? It had a slow start and the clue trails and flashbacks were a mixed bag at times.

Still I recommend it, espe
I've long been an admirer of the writing of Sara Paretsky. As such, I have faithfully followed her V.I. Warshawski series over the years. Having now finished with Critical Mass, I can say that I have read them all.

They are all workmanlike and suspenseful mysteries and some are downright enthralling page-turners, but I have to admit that I was less than enthralled with this latest one. While I really like V.I. and I'll always care about her, I found it hard to care very much about the other char
Feb 18, 2014 Jane rated it liked it
I'm less a fan of Paretsky than some. I find her character development limited and her handling of sometimes over-complex plots clumsy. I approve of her politics, but they sometimes lie a little heavy on the story or are simply given in speeches by V.I. rather than being entwined in and revealed by the plots of the novels. This book, though, is one of her best among those I've read. The historical underpinnings, involving both WWII and cold-war era politics that interconnect with the present liv ...more
Barbara Mitchell
Nov 25, 2013 Barbara Mitchell rated it it was amazing
There is only one problem with Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski novels. She can't write them fast enough for me. Every time I think she's decide to abandon the series, finally another one is published and I'm happy again.

This one, Critical Mass, is her best yet in my opinion. As usual, it takes place in Chicago and takes me back to that city I love. However, there are flashbacks to Austria during WW II. If you have read this series, you know that one of her best friends is Dr. Lotty Herschel who
Dec 13, 2013 Jerry rated it liked it
We continue to read each of the (now 16) stories about Paretsky’s private eye V.I. Warshawski. Her leading lady is a bit more hard boiled than Grafton’s Kinsey Malone and tends to stir up a lot of trouble as she roams around Chicago solving cases for which she is often unpaid. Other than her landlord, there are few recurring characters (although she has a boyfriend now), and sometimes the action gets a bit over the top. Therefore, while we stick with the set, we don’t necessarily look forward to ...more
Mar 24, 2014 Mazy's rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointed. Heard an NPR interview with Paretsky and thought this would be right up my alley: mystery! world war II history! physics! The flashbacks were reasonably satisfying, as were the scenes with Lotty and her harrowing story, but except for the tidbits about the Austrian nuclear research program's female scientists, most of it was pretty standard. (Nitpicking here, but there was an unfortunate research slip when she disparages Martina's position as a professor at a Hochschule as being "m ...more
Susan Johnson
Mar 01, 2014 Susan Johnson rated it it was amazing
I have read the V.I. Warshawski series for years now and find this one to be a very nuanced addition to the series. The story is about a physics genius who is forced by the Germans to work on the atom bomb. She is a Jewish woman who has little choice and, in the end, forced into a death march. Does she make it through? The story fluctuates between her story and her descendants in modern day Chicago.

I would not particularly like to spend time with V.I. on a personal basis. I find her hard and u
Brenda Hawley
Nov 04, 2015 Brenda Hawley rated it really liked it
This is by far the best Paretsky novel yet. V I Warshawski not only gets involved in mysteries with unique and interesting characters and conflicts, but she also delves into historical situations where the reader actually learns through the process. This novel combines a meth lab murder, a Nobel prize winner whose lover was left to suffer through the Holocaust in Austria, physics professors involved with the nuclear bomb during World War II and the first computers after the war and mother/child ...more
Jul 29, 2016 Jen rated it really liked it
I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program and, I have to be honest, if that hadn't been the case, it probably would have ended up on my "Did Not Finish" list. And yet, yes, I gave it 4 stars overall. (Warning, SPOILERS below.)

As with all of Sara Paretsky's books, this is solidly written. From page one it sets itself apart from others in that way -- and that's carried through to the end. Well-written, tight, and solid. The problem I had -- and the reason that I almo
Jan 19, 2014 Linda rated it really liked it
V.I. Warshawski is one of my favorite private detectives. I've got hooked early and have all 16 of here adventures on my shelf. From the first in 1982 until the current in 2013, Vic has been taking on battles for those getting the shaft. Now that's 31 years, but I think Vic has only aged about 20, as I don't see her being able to take the abuse she gets in this book and be able to function with just 10 hours sleep if she's 61!

I thought this book was excellent. At the request of long time friend
Shirley Schwartz
Nov 14, 2013 Shirley Schwartz rated it really liked it
Unfortunately I don't agree with a lot of the reviews for this book. Personally, this was my least favourite VI Warshawski novel. I gave the book four stars because Sara Paretsky is a wonderful writer and all those skills are mostly apparent in this book. Great characterization, cohesive plot and lots of tension. But the book, to my way of thinking, delves too deep into math and physics. I found it hard to get through all the mathematical references. And usually Ms. Paretsky crafts wonderful vil ...more
Apr 20, 2014 Donna rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-suspense
V.I. Warshawski novels wear me out, what with dozens of characters running around in various subplots, bumping into each other, and Warshawski herself rushing headlong into trouble at every turn. Anyone so reckless wouldn’t live long enough in real life to be of any real danger to others. No wonder it’s only the endearing old Mr. Contrares and the dogs that seem to put up with her on a long-term basis.

All that frenetic energy tends to distract from the central question of “who done it” (which, o
Debbie Maskus
Sep 22, 2013 Debbie Maskus rated it liked it
I haven't read Sara Paretsky in many years, as I had tired of V I Warshawski. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised with the caliber of writing. When I learned that the book hinged on discussions of physics and the atomic bomb, I felt the book would be technically challenging and boring. Critical Mass shines a one of Paretsky's better novels. The science does not hinder the story, but enhances the rendition. Martin Binder reminds me of the character that Humphrey Bogart plays in Dark Passag ...more
Stephen Terrell
Sep 24, 2014 Stephen Terrell rated it really liked it
Sara Paretsky makes her gritty, gutsy, smart detective V.I. Warshawski jump off the pages of her books, and this is no exception. She moves the story forward at a quick, but not break-neck pace. The characters are vivid, and the story is well thought out, not depending on plot tricks.

In this episode, I do find the actions of the Homeland Security Agents to strain belief. It's a distraction for me, and I think it could have been handled in a better way and still have maintained the integrity of
L.A. Starks
Nov 25, 2013 L.A. Starks rated it it was amazing
This is a stellar book, one of the best of Sara Paretsky's many great novels. Plenty of action, plenty of conflict, plenty of well-drawn characters, plenty of historical heartbreak, and--yes--plenty of physics. I'm so glad Paretsky has finally put it all in one book: Chicago, the University of Chicago library & librarians, physics research, Hyde Park, and the top talent of female European physicists.

My own quibble, and it is extremely slight, is many students earn '5's on the AP Physics C ex
Krista Hince
Sep 21, 2013 Krista Hince rated it it was amazing
Sarah Paretsky has the ability to draw you in to whatever era she's writing about. V.I. Is fiercely loyal to close friends and will do whatever she can to help them. Although talking about World War II is a painful time for all, Sarah weaves her way through those years of misery into solving her case.

I have loved V.I. from the moment I read her first book in 1986. V.I. has grown with me as she, too, ages. Her character development is like no other--her feelings of each character fly off the pag
Barbara Melosh
Jan 30, 2014 Barbara Melosh rated it liked it
Paretsky is a fine writer, and in this one she outdoes herself with an amazingly intricate plot. But the ambition of it is almost too much. She hits a range of concerns, from the Holocaust to Homeland Security,scientific research and corporate chicanery, meth labs to neglectful mothers...and the demands of these plot lines ultimately come at the expense of character development. I've read all Paretsky's work and in the last few in the series, I've felt Vic has gotten a little rote...and more ear ...more
Oct 24, 2015 Shirley rated it liked it
VI is way smarter than the average PI! This was a challenging read due to the complexity of the plot which had a two-pointed timeline, multi-ethnic characters whose backgrounds one needed to remember and keep straight. Also some knowledge of physics and Cold War politics would have been helpful. Impossible to just float along and enjoy the ride. Paretsky can really weave a yarn! Finding a missing computer geek takes our detective all the way to Vienna and through the histories of four generation ...more
Oct 31, 2015 Cybercrone rated it really liked it
Solid Paretsky effort.

My main niggle with the books is VI's clothing budget. Now she never goes shopping, is making, usually, borderline income, but out of her closet comes outfit after outfit in silk and wool, and good shoes, that she trashes during the stories. Willing suspension of disbelief only goes so far.

At least that's my second niggle after 'doing stupid things or missing the obvious to advance the story'. But it seems that there are no mystery writers currently who can get through a st
Dec 12, 2013 Larry rated it really liked it
V. ( Warshawski,headstrong and borderline crazy as ever, takes on a case that has personal connections (a good friend's family) and historical roots (both the Holocaust and the development of nuclear science). The case is interesting, though long and convoluted. The historic connections are moving. The depictions of people as complicated beings is good. But it takes a long, long time to develop, and Warshawski keeps going alone into dark buildings and dangerous places, often without her velcro v ...more
John Caviglia
Feb 26, 2014 John Caviglia rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-thrillers
This one's meatier and more ambitious than other Paretskys, it seems to me, weaving together in its plot the Vienna of WWII and the origins of the atom bomb--all this from a Jewish perspective--with the modern military/industrial complex. Includes the usual V.I. Warshawski wacky derring do, but somewhat less of her gumshoe quipping (for which, personally, I am grateful). A solid and well-crafted read, with the focus on women
Dec 13, 2014 Bob rated it really liked it
V. I. Warshawski is asked by her friend Lotti to look into the disappearance of a young man who is the son of an addict who had called her for help. This is a tale of tangled relationships, WWII woman scientists US A-bomb research Meth cookers and the FBI, Homeland security and a big research and computer company. Danger, death and old history as the back story of the WWII lives of the scientists and the present day investigations come together. Stayed up late to finish this one.
Mar 31, 2014 Judy rated it really liked it
Secrets and rivalries are passed down through several generations becoming even more complex because the secrets are all tied up with the research conducted by World War II adversaries racing to develop the atomic bomb. Although this is the 16th book in the V.I. Warshawski series, Sara Paretsky continues to deliver strong and compelling plots.
Mary Crawford
Mar 22, 2015 Mary Crawford rated it really liked it
This novel moves from the modern day to Europe during the Second World War, specifically how the Jews were treated by the Nazi's. The author includes how female scientists were used (and abused) in developing the concept of the computer. I am a fan of Sara Paretsky and this novel shows a breadth of research with white collar crime and a couple of murders thrown in for good measure.
Andy Plonka
Dec 15, 2013 Andy Plonka rated it really liked it
Shelves: src
An enterprising work by Paretsky with V.I. Warshawski helping her friend, Lottie with a problem that has its roots in the Jewish persecution by the Nazis during WWII. As the gist of the problem becomes clear, it appears that secrets about nuclear bombs and testing, as well as scientific discoveries are involved.
This was a very fast read, largely because It was hard to put down. The story line brings out family history and intrigue surrounding the development of atomic energy and weapons. Learning along the way: how European physicists and their discoveries were absorbed into U.S. research and development. At the end, one character leaves to study at Cal Tech,(perhaps with Sheldon and Leonard.
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Sara Paretsky is a modern American author of detective fiction. Paretsky was raised in Kansas, and graduated from the state university with a degree in political science. She did community service work on the south side of Chicago in 1966 and returned in 1968 to work there. She ultimately completed a Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago, entitled The Breakdown of Moral Philosophy in New E ...more
More about Sara Paretsky...

Other Books in the Series

V.I. Warshawski (1 - 10 of 18 books)
  • Indemnity Only (V.I. Warshawski, #1)
  • Deadlock (V.I. Warshawski, #2)
  • Killing Orders (V.I. Warshawski, #3)
  • Bitter Medicine (V.I. Warshawski, #4)
  • Blood Shot (V.I. Warshawski, #5)
  • Burn Marks (V.I. Warshawski, #6)
  • Guardian Angel (V.I. Warshawski, #7)
  • Tunnel Vision (V.I. Warshawski, #8)
  • Hard Time (V.I. Warshawski, #9)
  • Total Recall (V.I. Warshawski, #10)

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