It’s strictly Friends & Family as V.I. Warshawski, “the detective mystery fans have been waiting for” (Time), makes return appearances in a collection of stories that bring new meaning to “ties that bind.” Decked out in her silk shirts and no-nonsense Attitude, V.I. is out to make a living—by the skin of her teeth.
In “Grace Notes,” V.I. has barely finished her morning coffee when she sees an ad in the paper asking for information about her own mother, long dead. The paper leads V.I. to her newfound Italian cousin Vico, who’s looking for music composed by their great-grandmother. What’s the score? Clearly it’s something to kill for. . . .
“The Pietro Andromache” finds V.I.’s friend Dr. Lotty Herschel with motive and means to dispatch her professional rival and steal his priceless statue. Lotty didn’t do it—but does she know who did? V.I. soon cuts to the art of the case—and it’s not a pretty picture at all!
Summoned by an old high school friend to a race “At the Old Swimming Hole,” V.I. ends up swimming with the sharks—the FBI and a ruthless gambling kingpin—in a pool of blood. . . . And it’s only “Skin Deep” when a relaxing facial transformation transforms a client into a stiff. V.I.’s pal Sal needs help. Her beautician sister Evangeline is prime suspect—and V.I. has only eighteen hours to crack the case before it’s headline news. . . .
“Three-Dot Po” proves there’s nothing like a dog. Especially a dog on the trail of her mistress’s killer, with V.I. in tow. . . .
In “Strung Out,” love means nothing and V.I.’s quick to learn the score as her old friend’s tennis-champion daughter is under suspicion for strangling her father with a racket string. And there’s more, nine stories in all, in this masterful collection of short fiction starring V.I. Warshawski, “the most engaging woman in detective fiction since Dorothy Sayers’s Harriet Vane” (Newsweek).
Before giving us nine tales featuring her indomitable detective, V.I. Warshawski, Paretsky provides an introduction in which she gives a tour of the industrial south side of Chicago. The piece unwittingly reveals why her novels work so well and why this short-story collection doesn't. Many readers eagerly follow V.I. across the industrial and socioeconomic terrain that Paretsky carefully details and so seamlessly integrates into her novels. But there's no room in these short tales for such marvelously extended Chicago set pieces. Instead, Paretsky has to get by largely on plotting. A Warshawski relative arrives from Italy in "Grace Notes" to find a valuable musical manuscript that once belonged to V.I.'s mother. The Warshawski family tree's tangled roots have tripped the detective up before, and they do so again here. In "Strung Out," a young female tennis star has the usual entourage of pushy parents and lovers and coaches. Suddenly, she's short one pushy parent, and V.I. is on hand to lead us to the killer in this loveless match. On the whole these stories seem slight beside the broader canvases of Warshawski novels like Blood Shot and Guardian Angel.