Guardian Angel

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Small problems quickly lead to larger ones in Sara Paretsky’s latest V. I. Warshawski mystery, GUARDIAN ANGEL. Warshawski agrees to look after the dogs owned by an elderly neighbor, Hattie Frizell, who is hospitalized, then listens to neighbor Sal Contreras’ friend, Mitch Kruger, discuss suspected wrongdoings at his old place of employment. The problems escalate when Todd and Chrissie Pichea, yuppies who are trying to gentrify Warshawski’s neighborhood, obtain guardianship over Mrs. Frizell. Their first act is to have her dogs, which they consider to be a public nuisance, put to sleep. Mitch Kruger is discovered dead soon after going to talk to his old employers. Both developments draw Warshawski into an increasingly complex web of problems.

GUARDIAN ANGEL contains all the action and description of Warshawski’s Chicago milieu that Paretsky’s readers have learned to expect. Warshawski is shot at, has her condo broken into, and is nearly run down by a car even before the book’s climax. She finds herself at odds not only with shadowy wrongdoers but also with the police and, as usual, with her ex-husband, a corporate attorney. The theme of white collar greed and corruption is likewise familiar. Warshawski finds that the seemingly simple problems that begin the book are only the fringe of a web of corporate intrigue that she then untangles.

In this sixth novel in the series, Warshawski fleshes out as a character, as do some of the familiar supporting players. Warshawski becomes more introspective as well as more concerned with her relationships with her friends, especially Lotty Herschel, who is drawn into the violence of this case. This new depth of characterization adds to the enjoyment provided by the intriguing plot lines.