Sara interviews with Crime Club, the new London Times crime fiction newsletter

criminal tendencies interview

Brush Back receives 3 starred pre-publication reviews

Brush Back has received four glowing pre-publication reviews, including three starred reviews—not an easy feat. Pre-order and read an excerpt now and to find out for yourself what makes Brush Back V I’s most thrilling installment yet.

Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Boxed Review)

South Chicago provides the setting for MWA Grand Master Paretsky’s electrifying 18th novel featuring PI V.I. “Vic” Warshawski (after 2013’s Critical Mass). Vic thought she had left her old neighborhood—and her former teenage flame, Frank Guzzo—years ago, until he approaches her with a sensitive issue: his mother, Stella, just finished 25 years in prison for murdering Frank’s younger sister, Annie, and she’s now proclaiming her innocence. Reluctant to get involved—Stella always hated the Warshawski family—Vic agrees to look into the matter, but is floored when Stella accuses the detective’s beloved late cousin and Chicago hockey legend Boom-Boom (who was murdered in 1984’s Deadlock) of having a hand in Annie’s murder. Determined to clear Boom-Boom’s name, Vic throws herself into the investigation, which takes her into the murky political waters of her former stomping ground, with its back channels leading to the state’s highest echelons of power. Paretsky never shies from tackling social issues, and in this installment she targets political corruption without ever losing sight of her dogged sleuth’s very personal stake in the story.

Booklist (Starred Review)

In an unlikely moment of sentimentality, Chicago private investigator V. I. Warshawski grudgingly agrees to spend a few hours investigating the possibility that her old friend Frank Guzzo’s mother, Stella, was wrongfully convicted of murdering her daughter, Annie, 25 years ago. Stella, a nasty piece of work known for battering her children and slandering V. I.’s mother at every opportunity, punches V. I. at their first meeting, and Vic resolves to dump the case. But, then, Stella makes public claims that Annie’s long-lost diary implicates V. I.’s beloved hockey-star cousin, Boom Boom Warshawski, in her murder. No way is V. I. going to let those accusations stand, and she’s off fishing for new evidence from those involved in Annie’s case. As intrepid and tenacious as she was in the series’ first novels, V. I. battles the circled wagons of the tight-knit South Side Chicago neighborhood in which she grew up, which ultimately reveals

a satisfyingly complex story of decades-old murder, family loyalties, dirty politics, and gangsters. A certain summer hit, this robust series entry harkens back to the outstanding Fire Sale (2005), which also returned V. I. to her roots. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: V. I. Warshawski remains one of the most-loved characters in crime fiction, and this episode, drawing as it does on Warshawski’s personal history, will be of particular interest to fans looking for backstory.

Library Journal (Starred Review)

Paretsky’s latest V.I. Warshawski novel (after Critical Mass) finds our intrepid Chicago private investigator doing a favor for old high school boyfriend Frank Guzzo. Back in the South Side neighborhood, the Warshawski clan and the Guzzos have a long-standing and seemingly inexplicable feud, but V.I. reluctantly agrees to look into an unlikely claim that Stella, Frank’s mother, was framed for the bludgeoning death of her daughter Annie 25 years ago. But Stella’s tactics turn on the Warshawski family, and V.I.’s famous cousin, Boom Boom, is implicated in the case on the word of a volatile and still violent 80-year-old woman. Against her better judgment, V.I. pursues the case, raising the hackles of her lawyer, her reporter friend who relies on her tips, and an assortment of friends and family readers have come to know. VERDICT Paretsky’s novels are never boring, but this one is particularly well executed, combining family and city history with local political intrigue and a jaunt into the tunnels under Wrigley Field. The author’s many fans won’t be let down, while readers new to the series will be able to follow the story line without difficulty.

Kirkus Reviews

V.I. Warshawski (Critical Mass, 2013, etc.) takes on the most thankless task of her career: reopening a 25-year-old murder case on behalf of a convicted defendant who hates the sight of her. When trucker Frank Guzzo, who was once V.I.’s high school boyfriend, tells her that his mother, Stella, claims she was framed now that she’s been released after doing a quarter-century for beating Frank’s sister, Annie, to death, V.I.’s main reaction is skepticism. Who knows if Annie was really still alive when Stella left her to play bingo? In the end, though, she agrees to ask around, and the first person she questions is Stella. She quickly learns that Stella still blames V.I.’s mother, Gabriella, Annie’s piano teacher, for turning her daughter against her, and V.I.’s late cousin, hockey star Boom-Boom Warshawski, for ruining Frank’s chances of playing with the Cubs. She also learns that Stella swings one mean fist. Clearly this isn’t a client she can work with. But every attempt she makes to extricate herself from this sticky case enmeshes her more closely with all Paretsky’s trademark complications—bullying cops, crooked politicians, long-simmering resentments, buried secrets avid to spring back to murderous life—and she’s haunted by Stella’s contemptuous charge that “you want this to be about my family, but you won’t admit that it’s really about yours.” A healthy dose of present-day murder drives home the urgency of V.I.’s quest. Tension spikes when Boom-Boom’s goddaughter, hockey player Bernadine Fouchard, who’s been staying with V.I., goes missing. Paretsky, who plots more conscientiously than anyone else in the field, digs deep, then deeper, into past and present until all is revealed. The results will be especially appealing to baseball fans, who’ll appreciate the punning chapter titles and learn more than they ever imagined about Wrigley Field.

The DOLLUS Syndrome

Brush Back by Sara ParetskySara published an essay in the May 1 Booklist on issues around missing voices in contemporary crime fiction

Sara’s new novel Brush Back, about troubled families, Chicago sports, and Illinois politics, will be in bookstores everywhere on July 28


Sara reviews for the New York Times

Critical MassThe Mystery Writers of America have elected me president. What will the future hold for all of us? Watch this space!

London’s Independent newspaper does a quick Q & A with Sara.

Critical Mass–Critical Response

Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times says, “There are plenty of women among…genre writers, but not many like Sara Paretsky…Critical Mass hits a nerve with its historical back story about a Viennese physicist, “a great scientist who had a gender handicap.”

Steve Bertrand talks to Sara Paretsky about Critical Mass and Chicago on WGN Radio

Randy Cohen’s creative show, “Person, Place, Thing” featured Sara in January 2014

And the Washington Post says, “Paretsky at her best, describing with a reporter’s eye and a painter’s vision the light and texture of a place. A scene that throbs with menace concludes with a shock.”

Critical Mass On Sale October 22


V.I. Warshawski’s newest adventure uncovers secrets buried in the rubble of World War II. A particle physicist, V.I.’s beloved friend Lotty Herschel, and meth labs of rural Illinois all come together to form a Critical Mass of crime, intrigue, and passion. Published by G.P. Putnam’s. On sale everywhere on October 22nd. Pre-order here. Booklist’s starred review says:

“As in previous V.I. mysteries, Paretsky works elements of Chicago history into the story, this time referencing the city as a nexus for atomic research and linking the science of the work conducted in Austria during the Nazi occupation… Vic is at her stubborn, reckless, compassionate best in this complicated page-turner about selfish secrets passed down through generations…Paretsky has been on a roll lately, her long-running, trailblazing series at its most dynamic since the early days.”

Critical Mass Cover

Breakdown Contest

Sara’s hosting a contest on facebook page to celebrate the release of Breakdown. To enter, fill out the multiple choice questions about Breakdown, Body Work, and the other books you can read right here on the site. Grand Prize is a walk on role in V I’s next adventure!

Watch Sara on Hardcover Mysteries

Some of the greatest crime authors around—including Sara—share the truth behind their stories. Catch Hardcover Mysteries—an all new series, premiering Monday, October 11th at 9PM on Investigation Discovery.

VI Warshawski’s Chicago

Body Work from Sara Paretsky on Vimeo.

Publishers Weekly gives Body Work a Star

Body Work
Sara Paretsky, Putnam, $26.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-399-15674-8
Paretsky’s superb 14th novel featuring PI V.I. Warshawski (after Hardball) delves into Chicago’s avant-garde art scene. At the trendy Club Gouge, where Warshawski is keeping an eye on Petra, a young cousin who caused trouble in the previous book, performance artist Karen Buckley (aka the Body Artist) invites members of the audience to step on stage to paint her nude body. The intricate design that one woman paints on Karen’s back provokes a violent outburst from Chad Vishneski, a troubled Iraqi war veteran. When two nights later, someone shoots the woman who upset Chad outside the club, Chad is the logical murder suspect. Hired by Chad’s estranged parents to clear his name, Warshawski straddles a minefield that reaches from the Windy City’s neighborhoods to the Gulf War battlefields. Scenes with her aging neighbor and a new love interest give a much needed balance to the serious plot. This strong outing shows why the tough, fiercely independent, dog-loving private detective continues to survive. (Sept.)