Books by Sara Paretsky

Sara Paretesky is the author of thirteen previous books, including eleven V. I. Warshawski novels. She is the winner of many awards, including the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement from the British Crime Writers' Association.

SHELL GAME by Sara Paretsky
Released: Oct. 16, 2018

"It's pretty obvious early on who the criminal is, but that's true in most Sherlock Holmes stories, and the knowledge doesn't hurt any more here than there. The considerable pleasure comes from following the legendary heroine through an impenetrable maze of felonies knowing that you're in a master's hands."
V.I. Warshawski (Fallout, 2017, etc.) goes to bat for a niece of her own and a grandnephew of her best friend. Read full book review >
FALLOUT by Sara Paretsky
Released: April 18, 2017

"A steadily deepening historical nightmare that ends up implicating pretty much everyone in sight in a multilayered coverup. Whodunit purists may be frustrated at the absence of a single villain to blame, but Paretsky's legion of fans will rejoice in her heroically scaled 20th novel."
Think V.I. Warshawski butts too many heads in Chicago? Wait till you see what happens when she and her dog, Peppy, leave the big city for the wide-open spaces of Kansas. Read full book review >
BRUSH BACK by Sara Paretsky
Released: July 28, 2015

"Paretsky, who plots more conscientiously than anyone else in the field, digs deep, then deeper, into past and present until all is revealed. The results will be especially appealing to baseball fans, who'll appreciate the punning chapter titles and learn more than they ever imagined about Wrigley Field."
V.I. Warshawski (Critical Mass, 2013, etc.) takes on the most thankless task of her career: reopening a 25-year-old murder case on behalf of a convicted defendant who hates the sight of her.Read full book review >
CRITICAL MASS by Sara Paretsky
Released: Oct. 22, 2013

"Beneath the fierce scientific rivalries, the targets are so familiar that there's little room for mystery, though V.I. has a charismatic and blistering way of bringing old secrets to light."
V.I. Warshawski tackles the monstrous legacy of early nuclear-fission research. Read full book review >
BREAKDOWN by Sara Paretsky
Released: Jan. 3, 2012

"Plotted with all Paretsky's customary generosity, this standout entry harnesses her heroine's righteous anger to some richly deserving targets, all linked together in a truly amazing finale."
V.I. Warshawski's 14th case entangles everyone in Chicago from a murdered private eye to a pair of Senate candidates and the world's 21st-richest man. Read full book review >
BODY WORK by Sara Paretsky
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

"Paretsky plays out her trademark political and social themes not with rhetoric, but with a compelling story of lives shattered by pride, greed and fear of the unknown."
Chicago investigator V.I. Warshawski (Hardball, 2009, etc.) struggles to clear an Iraq War vet charged with murder. Read full book review >
HARDBALL by Sara Paretsky
Released: Sept. 22, 2009

"A tormented, many-layered tale that seems to have been dug out of Chicago history with a pickax. Readers who persevere through that interminable first-half flashback will be rewarded with the tremendous momentum of the second half."
V.I. Warshawski's 13th case (Fire Sale, 2005, etc.) drags her back to Chicago's tumultuous summer of 1966. Read full book review >
BLEEDING KANSAS by Sara Paretsky
Released: Jan. 1, 2008

"Big, ambitious and heartfelt. If it's less fully achieved than V.I.'s adventures, Paretsky's fans will probably devour it anyway."
The creator of V.I. Warshawski (Fire Sale, 2005, etc.) tells the story of three deep-rooted farm families in Lawrence, Kan., whose troubled interactions seem to recapitulate the state's violent history. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2007

"Neither the sentiment nor the passion is new. But Paretsky links different kinds of oppression in compelling ways."
A lacerating polemical memoir from the creator of V.I. Warshawski. Read full book review >
FIRE SALE by Sara Paretsky
Released: June 1, 2005

"Warshawski's tense, sharp 11th shows that you really can go home again."
Corruption and deception are never far behind as V.I. Warshawski (Blacklist, 2003, etc.) goes back to her South Chicago roots. Read full book review >
BLACKLIST by Sara Paretsky
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

"Paretsky emphasizes the political but doesn't neglect the personal here: a compelling tale of secrets that can't stay buried."
Paretsky exploits post-9/11 paranoia to take up for the little guy once more, as V.I. Warshawski gets her First Amendment rights stomped while fencing with obstructive witnesses and unreliable clients. Read full book review >
TOTAL RECALL by Sara Paretsky
Released: Sept. 11, 2001

"Paretsky loves to bite off more than she can chew, and her tenth novel (after Hard Time, 1999, etc.) is her most fiercely ambitious to date. No wonder the heroically mounting complications are never quite brought under control: her furious energy keeps the final pages still churning."
When she agrees to help lathe operator Isaiah Sommers press his claim for his recently deceased uncle's piddling $10,000 policy with Ajax Insurance, V.I. Warshawski has no idea that the case will blow up in her face—first with her former lover Ralph Devereux's insistence that Ajax paid out the policy ten years ago when they got proof that Aaron Sommers had died, then with the stunning news that muckraking Alderman Louis Durham has publicly tarred her as an Ajax toady determined to bilk the Sommers family out of their rightful due. But an unsought case is even uglier. A Holocaust survivor named Paul Radbuka, his repressed memories of his unspeakable past restored by hypnotherapist Rhea Wiell, has convinced himself that he's related to Vic's old friend Dr. Lotty Herschel. Now he's stalking Lotty and her intimates, Max Loewenthal and Carl Tisov, trying to force them to acknowledge him. As Lotty's nerves fray, a trail of corpses begins to form behind the two cases—the owner of the independent firm that sold the Aaron Sommers policy, the Ajax clerk in charge of the Sommers file—and Radbuka himself is shot. Just how, Vic wonders, are her two investigations related—and what's the deeper connection between the issues of Holocaust reparations and reparations for African-American slavery? Read full book review >
HARD TIME by Sara Paretsky
Released: Oct. 12, 1999

Driving home one night from a party for Global Studio star Lacey Dowell (the Mad Virgin), V.I. Warshawski nearly runs over a woman dying on an Edgewater street. When Nicola Aguinaldo does die in the hospital Vic rushes her to, Chicago's finest come down on Vic like a ton of bricks, losing the accident report that would clear her, then the body itself before it can be autopsied. But Vic already knows that the undocumented Filipina who'd just escaped from Coolis Prison wasn't the victim of a hit-and-run: she—d been kicked to death. How does her killing tie in to the crime that sent her to prison'stealing a necklace from Eleanor Baladine, whose husband Robert owns the behemoth security corporation that runs Coolis? Why was Nicola wearing a T-shirt made by Lacey Dowell's old friend Lucian Frenada, who keeps trying to get Lacey to cast a glance his way? Why does Global attorney Alexandra Fisher (formerly Vic's law school classmate Sandy Fishbein) want to hire Vic to keep Frenada off Lacey's back? And why, after Vic turns down the job, does non-swimmer Frenada wind up practicing his breaststroke in Belmont Harbor? Before Vic can come up with answers to all these questions, the bullies ranged against her trump up another charge that gets her thrown into Coolis herself—but throughout her harrowing ordeals in the women's prison, you're never in doubt who's going to end up sorry. Since nobody needs more than one scene to make an indelible impression, Paretsky has room to build one of her most satisfyingly ambitious novels yet; not till it's all over do you realize how much of the solution you already knew. A triumphant return to form for V.I., who's come back from a five-year sabbatical (Tunnel Vision, 1994, etc.) as strong as Vladimir Horowitz. Read full book review >
GHOST COUNTRY by Sara Paretsky
Released: June 1, 1998

The Holy Spirit, or someone very like her, appears on the mean Chicago streets usually watched over by Paretsky's detective V.I. Warshawski (Windy City Blues, 1995, etc.)—and, brother, is she in a state. If ever a world needed a lift, it's the environs of Midwest Hospital, where bean-counters have reduced dedicated psychiatric residents like Dr. Hector Tammuz to drug-dispensing slot machines and the neighborhood streets surrounding the Orleans Street Church and Hagar's House, its shelter for homeless women, teem with the poor, the hopeless, and the dispensers of those other drugs. The ranks of the downtrodden have been swelled by the addition of Luisa Montcrief (né Janice Minsky), an alcoholic diva who's fallen a long way from Verdi, and Mara Stonds, the ugly-duckling granddaughter of legendary neurosurgeon Dr. Abraham Stonds. Both women, stung by the retributive preaching of Promise Keeper look-alike Rafe Lowrie at Orleans Street, are drawn instead to Madeleine Carter, who swears that she saw the Blessed Virgin on the concrete wall of the Hotel Pleiades on Underground Wacker, and that the rust stains on the wall are the Virgin's blood. Throughout her impassioned opening scenes, Paretsky limns a world hurting for redemption despite the best efforts of its (overwhelmingly male) leaders to buy it off. But although she skillfully prepares for the advent of her savior, the aphasic street-person Starr, Paretsky isn't quite up to the task of breathing life into this psychotic saint, "the most urgently alive person Mara had ever met," as she goes about curing the sick, turning grape juice into wine, and raising the dead before meeting her own violent death and mysterious resurrection. It's disappointing to find that Starr, so shadowy and indistinct herself, lives in her far more vivid followers mainly as a rallying point for feminist social reform—which comes down here to settling scores with men. Still, Paretsky's ambitious, ambiguously religious novel earns an honorable place in the gallery of straight fiction by mystery writers from P.D. James's Innocent Blood to Walter Mosley's RL's Dream. Read full book review >
WOMEN ON THE CASE by Sara Paretsky
Released: June 1, 1996

This sequel to A Woman's Eye (1991) packs 26 all-new or newly translated stories, linked for the most part not only by their female authors and sleuths, but for their focus on issues of special concern to women (most of them would be unrecognizable with men in the leading roles). Despite repeating nine authors from her earlier anthology, Paretsky has cast her net even wider this time, going to Germany (Pieke Biermann), Austria (Helga Anderle), Russia (Irina Muravieva), Algeria (Amel Benaboura), Argentina (Myriam Laurini), and Australia (Susan Geason), and publishing first stories by Andrea Smith (an uppity black cop) and Dicey Scroggins Jackson (a disappearance from a women's shelter). With the notable exception of Sue Grafton, virtually all the big names in the field are represented—Nancy Pickard, Liza Cody, Ruth Rendell, Elizabeth George, Linda Barnes, Susan Dunlap, Marcia Muller, Lia Matera—but none of the entries outclasses the editor's own deft tale of a murdered mystery writer who seems like a cross between Camille Paglia and Sara Paretsky. Most notable as a barometer of the impressive verve and variety of contemporary women's mystery writing. Read full book review >
WINDY CITY BLUES by Sara Paretsky
Released: Oct. 13, 1995

No doubt about it: V.I. ("don't call me Vicki") Warshawski doesn't make the same splash in this collection of nine short stories, mostly reprints, as in her novels (Tunnel Vision, 1994, etc.). Oh, V.I. herself cuts the same flinty, swaggering figure, and fans will note that Paretsky, perhaps the last private-eye writer of distinction to take the short whodunit seriously, conscientiously sweats the details of suspects and motives and alibis in "Pietro Andromache," "Strung Out," "Settled Score," and "Skin Deep." What fans won't find is room for V.I. to sink gradually into one of those sinister novel-length plots that develops a deepening sense of social evil; the social causes invoked here seem pro forms, and stories like "At the Old Swimming Hole," "Three-Dot Po," and the long headliner, "Grace Notes," seem designed mainly as pretexts for V.I.'s incessant reunions with her friends and relations. Even the Hammett pastiche, "The Maltese Cat," whose clever recycling of proper names (Corinne, Iva, Flitcraft) gives the tale a wonderfully effervescent veneer, turns out to have nothing in reserve. Enough here to keep Paretsky's many fans going until their next novel-length fix, then, but nothing likely to win new followers. Read full book review >
TUNNEL VISION by Sara Paretsky
Released: June 1, 1994

Chicago PI V.I. Warshawski (Guardian Angel, 1992, etc.) discovers frail, frightened Tamar Hawkings and her three children living in the rat-infested basement of V.I.'s soonto-be-abandoned office building. Seeking help for the family from the city's shelter organizations, V.I. comes across some odd information about a small group of women in construction trades seeking a contract to build low-cost housing. Something is going on that connects one-time radical Jasper Heccomb; Alec Gantner, a senator's son whose family has megaholdings in an agricultural concern called Gant-Ag; banker Donald Blakely; and law professor Fabian Messenger. An invitation to the Messengers' party brings V.I. into close contact with Fabian's dysfunctional family; and in the party's aftermath, wife Deirdre is found bludgeoned to death in V.I.'s office while teenaged daughter Emily has vanished with two younger brothers in tow. Chaos is furthered by flooded tunnels deep below Chicago's streets, a theatrical backdrop for V.I.'s rescue of the children, with help from valiant neighbor Contreras. The wind-up of the big scam, on Gant-Ag's airfield, is equally melodramatic, ending an overstuffed saga that's as much fun to read as your newspaper on a bad day. Strictly overkill for a heroine gone from hard-edged to hard-bitten and a creative writer on a self-indulgent rampage. Read full book review >
GUARDIAN ANGEL by Sara Paretsky
Released: Feb. 5, 1992

The further perils of V.I. Warshawski, Chicago's lawyer-p.i. (Burn Marks, etc.), this time fighting the good fight against forces of greed and corruption, first brought to her attention by elderly downstairs neighbor and self-appointed guardian Mr. Contreras. His alcoholic friend Mitch Kruger, a fellow retiree from the Diamond Head Machine Company, cadges a bid from Contreras, brags about soon-to-come riches from Diamond Head, disappears and later is found murdered. Then there's dog-obsessed, cranky old Mrs. Frizell down the block who seems to have traded solid CD investments for junk bonds at the behest of her new neighbor, yuppie banker Todd Pichea. V.I.'s stubborn sleuthing into Kruger's murder produces numerous threatening confrontations, middle-of-the-night file searches, car chases, a second murder, and a nasty fright for her dear friend Dr. Lotty Herschel. The final result is the unraveling of a massive seam in which even V.I.'s prissy lawyer/ex-husband Dick Yarborough is involved. Our heroine—more short-fused and meanmouthed than ever—winds up a job well clone with no major injuries, a new lover, and a heavy case of introspection. Suspense rarely flags through the slightly excessive length here—densely textured, adroitly plotted, and one of the author's best. Read full book review >
A WOMAN'S EYE by Sara Paretsky
Released: Sept. 6, 1991

Twenty-one all-new stories, mostly a somber, let's-take-ourselves-too-seriously collection featuring female protagonists from such women writers as old-timers Dorothy B. Hughes and Dorothy Salisbury Davis; England's Antonia Fraser; academe's Amanda Cross; a California pileup including Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Faye Kellerman, Julie Smith, Susan Dunlap, Mary Wings, Marilyn Wallace, and Shelley Singer, the unique Maria Antonia Oliver, and Paretsky herself, whose sluggishly belabored case for V.I. Warshawski and introduction here ("there is no one way to view women") hardly represent her best work. The one standout: Liza Cody's "Lucky Dip," about a tough pair of sisters on the street. Series characters Kinsey Millhone (in Grafton's moderately successful what-goes-around-comes-around story), Sharon McCone (in Muller's foray into gang rivalry) and Kiernan O'Shaughnessy (in Dunlap's all-too-predictable break-a-leg story) will win no new fans here, though Kate Fansler and her nephew (in Cross's droll, class act) just might. Overall, though, disappointing. Read full book review >
BURN MARKS by Sara Paretsky
Released: March 20, 1990

Once again, Chicago's durable private-eye V.I. (Vicki) Warshawski is tangling with the forces of evil in her own hometown. This time, an arson fire levels a shabby S.R.O. hotel and brings Vic's disreputable, alcoholic Aunt Elena to her doorstep looking for shelter, along with her friend Cerise—young, black, pregnant, and probably addicted. Some days later, Cerise is found dead of an overdose—inexplicably, at a distant building site; Elena has disappeared from the room Vic found for her; and the Ajax Insurance Co. has hired Vic to try to find the arsonist before they pay off owner Saul Seligman. Policeman, sometime boyfriend Michael Furey isn't much help in all this. Meanwhile, Vic has attended a party at the estate of Boots Meagher, who's unexpectedly hosting a fund-raiser for Rosalyn Fuentes—an old, liberal friend of Vic's who's running for office. Boots is the Chairman of the County Board, and the party abounds with politicos and development contractors. Rosalyn seems to think Vic is sitting on something to her discredit, and, in the week after the party, warnings to mind her own business come at Vic from all sides—including head of the arson squad Roland Montgomery and big-shot developer Ralph McDonald. Trying to figure out what has all these people in an uproar, Vic doggedly continues her investigation—visiting an unwelcoming Seligman; climbing over building sites; nearly dying in another fire, from which she rescues Elena, who's hiding from someone—Cerise's killer, perhaps? More mayhem and another murder follow before the dust settles and our heroine is vindicated. The reader, however, may weary before that point is reached. Unlike her previous novels (Killing Orders, etc.), this one suffers from bloat—too many characters; too much domestic detail—meals, showers, runs, and pointless drives around the city in tedious profusion. Vic may still be lean and mean, but, here, her creator's style borders on the flabby. Read full book review >
BLOOD SHOT by Sara Paretsky
Released: Sept. 1, 1988

Paretsky (Bitter Medicine, etc.) is becoming the writer that Robert Parker used to be. Here, she juggles wisecracks, tenderness, and grit in a story that returns Chicago p.i. V.I. Warshawski to her southside roots—on a case that starts out small and personal and winds up catastrophically big, with possible fatalities in the thousands. When Caroline, whom V.I. always regarded as her little sister, asks V.I. to find out who her father was, the shamus reluctantly agrees. The likeliest possibilities, Steve Ferraro and Joey Pankowski, both worked at the same southside chemical plant as Caroline's mom, but when V.I. tries to pry their addresses from Personnel she's given the runaround—then inexplicably invited for cognac with the CEO, Gustave Humboldt, whose chitchat reveals that both men are dead; that a court of law denied their illnesses were work related; and that it might be healthier if V.I. stopped nosing into the matter. Soon Nancy Cleghorn, the environmental director of SCRAP (South Chicago ReAwakening Project), is found drowned in Dead Stick Pond; retired Humboldt Chemical physician Curtis Chigwell is attempting to burn his journals and commit suicide; Alderman Jurshak is clandestinely meeting gangster biggie Dresberg; his son is in hiding; V.I. is clobbered and dragged off to Dead Stick Pond in a sack; and Caroline's longed-for father turns out to be involved in an insurance fraud/cover-up with the chemical company regarding the dire effects of its cleaning solvent Xerxine. A strong indictment of gentlemen with sorry morals and old-time ward politics. Paretsky could not have written this one better. Read full book review >
BITTER MEDICINE by Sara Paretsky
Released: May 15, 1987

Another bumpy trip for Chicago's tough, gruff super P.I.-lawyer V.I. Warshawski (Deadlock, etc.). There's a heart of gold under her wisecracking rap, and this time it leads V.I. (less pretentiously, Vic for Victoria) into investigating the murder of Dr. Malcolm Tregiere. The doctor was allied with Vic's longtime friend Dr. Lotty Herschel in a low-income area clinic for women. Pregnant, unmarried teen-ager Consuelo Alvarado was his patient. Vic's charitable attempt to help get a job in the suburbs for the girl's worthless boyfriend Fabiano led to an emergency dash for the nearest hospital (Friendship) when Consuelo went into early labor. A short time later, Consuelo and baby were dead; Dr. Tregiere, who'd visited the girl in the hospital, is then found murdered; Lotty's clinic is besieged by anti-abortionists, the files ravaged; Vic is being courted by the hospital's obstetrics head, Dr. Peter Burgoyne, and wondering why her very expensive lawyer ex-husband is representing Dieter Monkfish, scruffy leader of the anti-abortionists. Something's not kosher at the very-much-for-profit hospital with its slick brochures and designer-groomed director Alan Humphries. Add to this Fabiano's gang leader Sergio, who holds a grudge against our girl from her lawyering days, and a raft of colorful subsidiary characters. Paretsky makes the most of it all with a dense, convincing, fast-moving plot, a dauntless but vulnerable heroine, a fine-tuned ear for real-life dialogue and a sharp eye for the Chicago scene. Superior stuff. Read full book review >
KILLING ORDERS by Sara Paretsky
Released: May 17, 1985

Sara Paretsky brings us her third mystery, Killing Orders, and with it, her tough-girl detective V.I. Warshawski, a kind of grownup Nancy Drew—smart, gutsy, and able to balance thinking with acting. In this novel, Vic responds to a cry for help from her aunt Rosa, a real Tartar who's been fired as treasurer from a local Dominican priory after the monks discover that several million dollars' worth of securities have been substituted with forgeries. Seemingly out of the blue, the truly awful Rosa then tries to fire Vic, but Vic's seen too much to quit (and, anyway, it's family). So Vic persists, and for her trouble a friend is killed, another friend's uncle is stabbed, and Vic herself becomes the target of terror tactics—acid thrown at her in a dark hallway, a mysterious fire in her apartment. It's not so surprising given her opponents: the Mafia, an international financial organization, and the Catholic church. Paretsky creates a believable, sympathetic, nicely developed character and gives us a detailed backdrop, so that we learn enough about Chicago and environs to know where to eat, what expressways to avoid, and which buildings have the finest outdoor art. She is as capable as her detective heroine, weaving in real-life scandals (Sindona and the Franklin National Bank, Roberto Calvi and the Banco Ambrosiano) to validate her plot. No mystery buff will mind the fact that Paretsky doesn't break new ground. She gives us a classic mystery, a page-turner in the best tradition. Read full book review >
DEADLOCK by Sara Paretsky
Released: Feb. 24, 1983

Unlike Emma Lathen, Paretsky (Indemnity Only) doesn't quite have the gift for making convoluted business dealings lucid and lively; so this second outing for V. I. Warshawski, a female narrator/shamus in Chicago, is again more sturdy than gripping—with V. I. somewhat less agreeable company than she was in her debut. "Boom Boom" Warshawski, ex-hockey star and a recent employee at the Eudora Grain Co., has died in an "accident" on the Chicago waterfront, falling (?) off a pier. So his cousin V. I., suspecting foul play, is soon sleuthing around Eudora—and around the shipping companies it deals with. Had Boom Boom discovered some shady dealings involving a grain-company exec? Was a slimy shipping tycoon also involved? And what about local ballet-star Paige Carrington, who claims to have been Boom Boom's true love . . . but seems to have a sugar daddy elsewhere? More murders ensue: the security guard at Boom Boom's condo (apparently the victim of burglars in pursuit of incriminating papers); the top grain-company suspect. Then someone drains the brake fluid out of V.I.'s car. But, undaunted, she follows the the trail (a rather arbitrary one) to a Canadian port city, boarding a freight-ship just in time to survive a mid-lock explosion. And finally there's a long-drawn-out series of confrontations—one of them featuring more shipboard violence—between V.I. and each of the several, transparent villains. Just-passable corporate sleuthing overall—with okay shipping backgrounds, stiff dialogue, and the unengaging presence (sarcastic, weepy) of V. I. herself. Read full book review >
INDEMNITY ONLY by Sara Paretsky
Released: Jan. 22, 1981

In Lamaar Ransome, Private Eye (p. 462), David Galloway played the idea of a super-hard-boiled female shamus strictly for laughs—not very successfully. Here, however, with narrator-sleuth V. I. (Victoria) Warshawski of Chicago, first-novelist Paretsky is doing the same thing with an absolutely straight face; and the result, if rather flat, is a sturdily readable diversion that's no more implausible than any other hard-boiled fare. The case begins when V.I. is hired by banker John Thayer (or so he identifies himself) to locate Anita, the missing girlfriend of his son Peter. But when V.I. then promptly discovers Peter's murdered body, the plot thickens: her client, it seems, was really Anita's father, a shady labor leader; and Peter was working for the Ajax Insurance Co.—which may have had illegal connections with the labor leader and with some mobster types (who rough V.I. up). Then Peter's father (the real John Thayer) is also murdered, so the insurance/bank/union/mob tangle gets more complicated. And before V.I. exposes a convincing insurance scare, she finds the missing Anita and plays godmother to Peter Thayer's unhappy teenage sister. Predictably plotted, but written with agreeable plainness—and, except for V.I.'s affair with a suspect (is he just another "pretty face"?), the sex-role shift is handled with just the right sort of un-cute, matter-of-fact credibility. Read full book review >