Burn Marks

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

V.I. Warshawski firmly believes that a woman’s place is in the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. Thus, when she learns that a good friend is planning a new campaign she is quick to contribute to the effort--although she is, as usual, flirting with bankruptcy. Admittedly, she is a bit put out when her friend assumes that Warshawski is not above sinking her campaign at the outset. It is true that Warshawski is surprised and disturbed by some of the key backers of her friend’s candidacy, but she recognizes that politics makes strange bedfellows.

In any case, Warshawski cannot take the time to consider what dirty linen her friend wishes to conceal. V.I.’s problem is more immediate. Her alcoholic Aunt Elena has come to seek shelter, after the hotel in which she has been living burned down as a result of arson. Warshawski’s efforts to find a home for her aunt provoke powerful and deadly reactions from unexpected quarters. Soon, the intrepid and obstinate V.I. finds herself in the midst of one of her most harrowing cases to date.

It is to be wondered if perhaps the Chicago Chamber of Commerce has not considered paying Sara Paretsky to relocate her rather obstreperous character in another urban setting. Perhaps she could be persuaded to move to Boston and join Carlotta Carlye (A TROUBLE OF FOOLS) in tweaking the Establishment.

Paretsky is given to a rather dour view of the human condition, and her works reflect that inclination. Such, perhaps, is the result of acquiring both an MBA and a Ph.D. in history. In any event, those who are acquainted with the series will not be disappointed, and newcomers are in for a treat.