BREAKDOWN by Sara Paretsky
Kirkus Star


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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.

Little do the seven tween girls invoking the spirit of that famous fictional vampire Carmilla, Queen of the Night, at a secret ceremony in Mount Moriah Cemetery know that only a few yards away lies the fresh corpse of one Miles Wuchnik, very recently added to the rolls of the dead. V.I., leaving a high-rolling party for right-wing media darling Wade Lawlor to respond to her cousin Petra’s plea to find Kira Dudek, one of the tweens, wakes up the next morning to learn that although she succeeded in getting the girls away from the murder scene before the police arrived, Lawlor and all his dittoheads are implicating her in the murder of the colleague she never met. It’s entirely plausible that V.I. might be taking money from billionaire Chaim Salanter to protect his granddaughter Arielle Zitter, another of the tweens. And since Salanter is a prominent contributor to the senatorial campaign of University of Illinois president Sophy Durango, it figures that Lawlor, a big booster of Sophy’s opponent, creationist Helen Kendrick, would go after both Salanter and V.I. But the sad fact is that Salanter hasn’t hired Warshawski (Body Work, 2010, etc.); in fact, he meets with her repeatedly only to warn her to stay off the case. Not that she’s not distracted all on her own, since her old law school friend, bipolar attorney Leydon Ashford, has just been thrown from a height at Rockefeller Chapel and lies near death. Leydon’s last cryptic message—“I saw him on the catafalque”—seems to connect the attack on her to Wuchnik’s murder. Can V.I. put together the pieces in time to save the young witnesses from the killer?

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.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-15783-7
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2011


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Kirkus Interview
Sara Paretsky
author of BRUSH BACK
July 28, 2015

No one would accuse V. I. Warshawski of backing down from a fight, but there are a few she’d be happy to avoid. High on that list is tangling with Chicago political bosses. Yet that’s precisely what she ends up doing when she responds to Frank Guzzo’s plea for help in Brush Back, the latest thriller from bestselling author Sara Paretsky. For six stormy weeks back in high school, V.I. thought she was in love with Frank. He broke up with her, she went off to college, he started driving trucks for Bagby Haulage. She forgot about him until the day his mother was convicted of bludgeoning his kid sister, Annie, to death. Stella Guzzo was an angry, uncooperative prisoner and did a full 25 years for her daughter’s murder. Newly released from prison, Stella is looking for exoneration, so Frank asks V.I. for help. “Paretsky, who plots more conscientiously than anyone else in the field, digs deep, then deeper, into past and present until all is revealed,” our reviewer writes. View video >


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