WINDY CITY BLUES
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.