Best known as the creator of the groundbreaking female detective protagonist V.I. Warshawksi, Sara Paretsky steps away from the PI in Bleeding Kansas, which is part historical fiction, part modern-day, small-town melodrama. The novel is set in Lawrence, a college town full of fascinating anti-slavery, pro Civil Rights history, which Paretsky plumbs as she examines the "what's wrong with Kansas?" phenomenon. The story centers on the part local, part big-city (read: mostly liberal) Grellian family and the conservative Schapens who rile up their neighbors with their judgmental busy-bodying. Throw in lesbian Wiccans, the "Perfect Red Heifer," and an Iraqi soldier, and families hurtle toward inevitable conflict and upheaval. Although sometimes a little overwhelmed by the multitude of supporting characters and families involved, the plot moves along quickly and is filled with observations about everyday Kansan life.
Fri., Jan. 4, 7 p.m., 2008