When Sara Paretsky first introduced V.I. Warshawski to the world in her 1982 book, INDEMNITY ONLY, she was a rather ground-breaking character. And many of the female writers who followed Paretsky into the hard-boiled crime genre credit her as an inspiration. Warshawski and her cronies made no bones about their feminism. If a client questioned her ability as a woman, she told them how it was. “If things get heavy, I’ll figure out a way to handle them—or go down trying.” Detective fiction was no longer just an old boys club, and it was never going to be the same again.
This month, Warshawski returns for her 18th novel—FALLOUT. Warshawski’s beloved Chicago evolves throughout the course of three and a half decades, and through the series, listeners can experience changes in social norms, politics, and, of course, sports. An element I find refreshing in Paretsky’s plots is Warshawski’s realistic aging. She may still be a tough old broad, but at this age, she simply can’t bounce back the way she used to. I love the Warshawski series for all of these reasons, and I’m grateful for the door she opened so that more women could follow after her.
Susan Ericksen provides the voice of Warshawski for much of the series, but not all. Jean Smart took over the microphone in HARD TIME, and her recognizable voice may have smoothed the change from Ericksen. Then Sandra Burr took the reins in TOTAL RECALL. These three capable narrators have distinctly different sounds, and that can be jarring for a series devotee.
Ericksen returns for FALLOUT, but this time Paretsky is taking Warshawski outside of Chicago. I can’t wait for this new installment. How about you?