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Publisher's Summary

The brilliant V. I. Warshawski returns in another hard-hitting entry, combining razor-sharp plotting and compelling characters with a heady mix of timely political and social themes.

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 to be just the tip of an iceberg of lies, secrets, and silence, whose origins go back to the mad competition among America, Germany, Japan, and England to develop the first atomic bomb. The secrets are old, but the people who continue to guard them today will not let go without a fight.

©2013 Sara Paretsky (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Paty
  • ALEXANDRIA, VA, United States
  • 02-21-14

Shrillness...not for the faint of heat

Any additional comments?

The novel itself is very interesting. However, my complaint is with the narration. Sara Paretsky clearly wrote very sharp, confrontational dialogue for her characters. That is her style. This audiobook really accentuates that aspect, which can be quite distracting and overbearing. The narrator does a good job of giving each the characters an independent voice, but I felt as if every character was shrilling screeching at me, including the non-adversarial ones. The only reprieve I seemed to get was with the V.I. Warshawski's internal monologue. I don't know if this effect was a result of the abrubt dialogue, or the narrator's own twist on the book. Either way, I had to listen to this audiobook in limited chunks to give myself a break. I felt as if I'd been listening to angry people fighting in every chapter, and it was just too much! It detracted from my enjoyment of the plot. In the future, I will save her books for reading, rather than listening on audiobook.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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POWERFUL

This book is not for the faint of heart. It tells in graphic detail what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany and elsewhere during that period. This book also tells about how the US accepted known Nazi criminals into this country in order to help build a nuclear reactor and bomb and gave them US Citizenship.
I enjoyed the science and the interactions especially Lotte, Max and Vic's.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Lee
  • Spring Branch, TX, United States
  • 11-10-13

Intricate, detailed and a bit confusing

I have read all 16 VI Warshawski books, some of them twice. Although the story line for Critical Mass is excellent, it gets really twisted up in places, like an expensive pair of pantyhose that knots up when someone tries to get into them quickly. You have to listen to the story line in this book very carefully or you will be clicking on the "back" button every several minutes. It would probably help if the listener has some knowledge of the Cold War, nuclear technology, the Holocaust, and the ins and outs of the CIA. I actually have quite a bit of knowledge in this area so I was able to follow the plot but the novel itself was very dark and somewhat depressing. I think that Sara Paretsky was trying to teach a lesson in ethics. It's good to a point but it can become very upsetting. It can also become very confusing to someone who has very little knowledge of the shenanigans that our government has gone through in the past regarding nuclear weaponry. All said though, it's still worth listening to.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 11-08-13

Intricate plot

I have read some of the V. I. Warshawski book’s by Sara Paretsky and have enjoyed most of them. I think this one is excellent. Paretsky’s writing is excellent; she has great characterization and an intricate plot. The book has plenty of action, suspense and Paretsky’s usual dry humor. The book alternates between the current time and 1939 Vienna. In the Vienna section has life in the Jewish Ghetto, to kinder transport to England of Lotty and Kathe Binder. There is some discussion of Kathe’s mother a scientific genius who was in the concentration camps and escaped to find her way to the US. In the current time frame Dr. Lotty Herschel hired VI to find Judy Binder, Kathe daughter. Kathe then hires V. I. to find her grandson Martin a genius in Physic and computer programming who went missing the same time as his mother. We have Home land Security, a Corporation out of control and stolen designs for a computer. Paretsky weaves this into an intricate plot. If you enjoy a mystery story you will enjoy this. Susan Ericksen does a great job narrating the story.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Charlie K
  • Princeton Junction, NJ United States
  • 11-12-13

Good writing and a dark, intricate plot

Any additional comments?

It's been a while since I've read a VI Warshawski book and I enjoyed this one a lot. <br/><br/>Recently, I've been disappointed at the quality of writing that I've encountered in a number of mystery novels. Not here. Sara Paretsky is an excellent writer. <br/><br/>The plot in this book relates to World War II and the Holocaust. It's not always the easiest material to listen to but it's clear that Paretsky has done her research well. The intricate plot weaves the current mystery with a back story that feels realistic and detailed.<br/><br/>It's also clear that the author has concerns and a position about current issues. She weaves them in but does not bludgeon the reader with them. As a result, I found the references to current issues like privacy and government surveillance added to the sense of depth.<br/><br/>I have one long-standing gripe with Ms. Paretsky that I had forgotten but which re-emerged when I "read" this book. Many of her characters are hard-edged and interactions are often nasty. Perhaps that is the way of the world but it's a bit of a downer. I am always amazed by VI's ability to maintain her cool in the face of verbal assault.<br/><br/>With all that, Critical Mass is a good and engaging listen. I found myself engaged and wanting to keep listening. The ending is satisfying and the author ties up a lot of lose threads -- another grip I have about many books that seem to end far too abruptly.<br/><br/>I give this book 4.5 stars. It's well worth a listen.<br/>

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Too grim and angry for me

I'm about two hours in and I quit. I may come back to it at some time -- I generally enjoy Sara Paretsky's books -- but this one is filled with so much anger and bitterness I just can't take it anymore.

Justifiable anger and bitterness, most probably, especially the Holocaust victims/scenes. But even the rest is rendered in a harsh Germanic accent, so with everyone shouting at everyone else, making accusations, the bitterness and the bombastic talk everyone affects -- even Mr. Contreras comes off as a shouting old man -- then it's too much.

I don't know if you want to listen to this when you're in a good frame of mind, and can tolerate it. Or when you're already miserable, in which case it won't make it worse.

Maybe better read than listened to? Could be.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Still Exciting

Would you listen to Critical Mass again? Why?

I would definitely listen to CM again because the story was so detailed and contained so much history. I'm sure there are little parts I missed. I really enjoyed that the book took you from Past to Present throughout the chapters. Was an interesting way to lead the reader through the lives of those in Germany. I have listened to all the V.I. books now. This story is told in a different way, but still has all the great characteristics of all the other books.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Holger
  • CHICAGO, IL, United States
  • 10-27-13

Sara Does it again.

If you could sum up Critical Mass in three words, what would they be?

Suspense, great and brilliant.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

From the beginning I started the book, I could not put it down. Sara did a great job of making me love the story. I always love reading any story that VI is involve.

What does Susan Ericksen bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Susan put heart into the reading. She is fantastic and I feel that she loves reading about VI.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The end of the story. I am glad that Martina was able to found some happiness.

Any additional comments?

Anyone who is interested in great detective novel must read VI by Sara Paretsky. I had read her books more than several times and still love her. Looking forward to the next VI.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • DW
  • 10-04-14

One of her best!

Would you listen to Critical Mass again? Why?

I never re-listen to books, but it's a great book!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Critical Mass?

The thing that struck me most was the technical and mathematical research that she had to do to write this book. Amazing!

Which character – as performed by Susan Ericksen – was your favorite?

VI - as always!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

This was one of her best. Well written. Lots of technically interesting and mathematic intricacies with a great story line.

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Fascinating Story - Great Narrator

If you could sum up Critical Mass in three words, what would they be?

Susan Ericksen is an excellent voice for Sara Paretsky. I had trouble disconnecting from the story to do work or sleep, it was so engrossing.