On Sara Paretsky’s New V.I. Warshawski Novel

My review of HARDBALL, the 13th installment of the V.I. Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky, appears at the Barnes & Noble Review today. Here’s how it opens:

To understand the current state of mind of both
Sara Paretsky and her private detective alter ego, one must first roll
back the clock to 1982, when Victoria Iphegenia Warshawski took her
first investigative bow in Indemnity Only.   Both Raymond
Chandler and Dashiell Hammett had been dead for over two decades;
Kenneth Millar, better known as Ross MacDonald, wouldn't succumb to
Alzheimer's for another year, while John D. MacDonald had two more
Travis McGee novels to publish before his 1985 death. Robert B. Parker
was the king of neo-private eye fiction, his hero Spenser both homage
and contemporary reworking of the Marlowe-esque knight errant in search
of lost selves, with Lawrence Block, James Crumley and Bill Pronzini
not far behind in critical and commercial acclaim. The Private Eye
Writers of America, an organization of established and emerging mystery
writers in this still-fecund subgenre, was about to give out its very
first Shamus Awards to the best books of the previous year. And the
only novel featuring an American woman as gumshoe, Marcia Muller's Edwin of the Iron Shoes, had been published in 1977 to little fanfare.

By the end of 1982 the game changed. Muller published her second Sharon McCone novel, Sue Grafton introduced Kinsey Millhone in A Is For Alibi,
and the floor was now open –  whether some liked it or not — for more
women to claim the tropes of private eye fiction for their own. As
influential as Muller and Grafton became, McCone and Millhone invited
readers to take in their world, to root for them as they uncovered
secrets and local ills. Their characters developed and darkened and the
authors have lately taken some interesting narrative steps, but one
finishes their books with a sense of order more or less restored….

Read on for the rest, and my take on how V.I.’s “burning anger, wrath and indignation,” to crib from the Passover Seder (I know we’re in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but so is the book’s publication date) takes shape and form with this particular socially charged story.