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BREAKDOWN by Sara Paretsky Kirkus Star


by Sara Paretsky

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-15783-7
Publisher: Putnam

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.