Bleeding Kansas

Taking a break from her V.I. Warshawski novels, Sara Paretsky has written a novel dealing with contemporary issues, and their effect upon the lives of ordinary Americans in present-day Kansas. The world of Bleeding Kansas is haunted by the past, and the bloody wars once fought between pro- and anti-slavery settlers. It is also a place of stern religious values, where God’s will is not questioned, and outsiders are viewed with suspicion. So when Gina Haring, a divorced New Yorker, arrives to rent an empty farm house, the community is wary of her. A free-thinker and a practitioner of witchcraft, Gina creates tensions which are exacerbated when the Schapen family finds a perfect red heifer in their dairy. Taking it as the fulfilment of an obscure religious prophecy, and believing Jesus’s return to earth is now imminent, the heifer’s presence, coupled with ideological conflict over the war in Iraq, brings the community’s tensions to breaking point. The result is a climax all-too-in keeping with Kansas’s bitter, explosive past.