I’m a long-term reader of Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski novels, a series started in 1982 and based around the derring-do of a Chicago PI. Thinking about it the other day, I read my first VI Warshawski book in 1996, and have now happily read my way through all of them.
The last but one in the series is Hardball which was published after a break in which Sara Paretsky wrote Bleeding Kansas, a novel outside the VI Warshawski canon (more about that when I’ve read it!). VI Warshawski is hired to look for a man who’s been missing for 40 years and, although she thinks it’s a lost cause, she takes the case and gets embroiled in a series of mysteries that go back to Martin Luther King’s visits to Chicago and a period of intense racial unrest. Throw VI’s young cousin, the murder of a potential witness and a few of VI’s old confederates into the mix and you’ve got a great addition to to the series.
I love crime novels in general but, perhaps being one, I tend to gravitate towards the lady detectives and VI has always appealed to me as a really strong, independent woman who always rubs people up the wrong way. Paretsky obviously knows her character well and so she really comes across well from the page. All of the novels – including this one – are written so well and Paretsky leads you gently by the hand to the conclusion – when you look back there are plenty of clues for you to put together, but they’re all drawn neatly together at the end.
VI as a person is flawed, but this makes her all the more appealing, coupled with the fact that she does her job – and more than her job – conscientiously and with significant risk to herself. Her adventures are always exciting and I tend to read the novels more than once – will an appropriate gap so I can forget whodunit!!