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I haven’t seen the movie adaptation with Kathleen Turner since the ’90s but I liked it. I only discovered years later it was a book series. Life is full of useless and random surprises!
What is the V.I. Warshawski series about?
Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski, called “Vic” by her friends, is a private investigator in Chicago and the main protagonist of the hard-boiled crime series written by Sara Paretsky.
Sarcastic with a bad temper, Vic mostly works against the wealthier and powerful of Chicago. She goes after crooked businesspeople and corrupt politicians, and she often loses, but she also settles for a partial victory when she can.
All of Warshawski’s adventures are written in the first person, with the exception of “The Pietro Andromache.”
V.I. Warshawski Books in Order:
Every book in the V.I. Warshawski series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Indemnity Only – Meeting an anonymous client late on a sizzling summer night is asking for trouble. But trouble is Chicago private eye V.I. Warshawski’s specialty. Her client says he’s the prominent banker, John Thayer. Turns out he’s not. He says his son’s girlfriend, Anita Hill, is missing. Turns out that’s not her real name. V.I.’s search turns up someone soon enough — the real John Thayer’s son, and he’s dead.
- Deadlock – When Chicago Black Hawks hockey legend Boom Boom Warshawski slips off a wharf and drowns in Lake Michigan, his private-eye cousin questions the accidental death report and rumors of suicide. Armed with a bottle of Black Label and a Smith & Weson, V.I. follows a trail of violence and corruption to the center of the Windy City’s powerful shipping industry.
- Killing Orders – V.I. Warshawski’s battleaxe Aunt Rosa is under investigation by the FBI and SEC after counterfeit stock certificates were found at St. Albert’s Priory, where she serves as treasurer. As malicious as her aunt is, V.I. knows she’s not dishonest, so V.I. vows to protect her from taking the fall. But V.I. starts questioning the strength of her family ties when a menacing voice on the phone threatens to throw acid into her eyes if she doesn’t butt out.
- Bitter Medicine – V.I. Warshawski knows her friend Consuelo’s pregnancy is already risky—she’s sixteen and diabetic—but when the baby arrives prematurely, suddenly two lives are at stake. Despite V.I.’s efforts to provide Consuelo with proper care, both mother and daughter die in the local hospital. Suspecting malpractice, V. I. begins an investigation.
- Blood Shot – V.I. Warshawski isn’t crazy about going back to her old south Chicago neighborhood, but a promise is something she always keeps. Caroline, a childhood friend, has a dying mother and a problem– after twenty-five years she wants V.I. to find the father she never knew. But when V.I. starts probing into the past, she not only finds out where all the bodies are buried — she stumbles onto a very new corpse.
- Burn Marks – Someone knocking on the door at 3 A.M. is never good news. For V.I. Warshawski, the bad news arrives in the form of her wacky, unwelcome aunt Elena. The fire that has just burned down a sleazy SRO hotel has brought Elena to V.I.’s doorstep.
- Guardian Angel – Underneath V. I. Warshawski’s wisecracking P.I. exterior lies a real pushover. When elderly neighbor Mr. Contreras asks her to look into a fellow union retiree’s sudden disappearance, she says “yes” from her heart, not her head. And when a crotchety eighty-year-old dog owner starts wrangling with a Yuppie-Come-Lately couple on their blue-collar street, again, it’s V.I. to the rescue. Only it all goes to hell in a handbasket.
- Tunnel Vision – Stubbornness has landed private eye V.I. Warshawski in big trouble at her Chicago office. With her grand old Loop building set to be razed, she’s become a hold-out tenant amid frayed wiring and scary, empty corridors. Then she finds a homeless woman with three kids in the basement, and before she can rescue them, they disappear. Worst of all, she’s been implicated in a murder.
- Windy City Blues (short stories) – V.I. Warshawski 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…
- Hard Time – On her way home from a party, V.I. Warshawski almost runs over a woman lying in the street. Stopping to help, V.I. soon learns that her Good Samaritan act will drop her squarely in a boiling intrigue. In a case that forces her to go head-to-head with one of the world’s largest providers of private security and prison services.
- Total Recall – At a conference on the recovery of Holocaust assets, a man named Paul Radbuka surfaces, claiming to be part of the past that Lotty left buried in war-torn Europe half a century ago. The aging Lotty is emotionally shattered. She has never talked to V.I. Warshawski about those years following her escape from Austria. But Radbuka’s claims have such a dramatic effect on her that V.I. feels compelled to investigate him.
- Blacklist – As a favor to her most important client, V. I. Warshawski agrees to check up on an empty mansion. But instead of a mysterious intruder she discovers a dead man in the ornamental pond—a reporter for an African-American publication whom the suburban cops are quick to dismiss as a suicide.
- Fire Sale – V. I. Warshawski agrees to fill in as coach for the girls’ basketball team at her South Chicago alma mater—which in turn leads her to the headquarters of By-Smart, the global retail empire. When Billy Bysen, the earnest teenage grandson of the chain’s founder disappears, V. I. is hurled onto a twisted, body-strewn path.
- Hardball – Tracking down missing persons is part of V.I. Warshawski’s job. But Lamont Gadsden has been missing for more than forty years—last seen heading out into the 1967 blizzard, in the midst of Chicago’s racial unrest. V.I. figured the search would be futile. She didn’t realize it would be lethal…or lead to troubling discoveries about her own family
- Body Work – Chicago’s Club Gouge attracts an eclectic audience. And tonight, V.I. Warshawski is in the crowd too. The edgy stage show stars The Body Artist, who invites audience members to draw on her naked flesh. But things get a lot edgier when a woman sketches a picture on the Body Artist—and one of the veterans flies into a drunken rage. Next thing V.I. knows, she’s cradling the woman’s dying body in an alley.
- Breakdown – When a group of Chicago tweens holds a ritual in an abandoned cemetery, they stumble on an actual corpse—stabbed through the heart in a vampire-style slaying. V.I. Warshawski arrives on the scene to escort the girls home–but protecting them places her at the tangled center of the investigation.
- Critical Mass – In 1939, Dr. Lotty Herschel, V. I. Warshawki’s closest friend in Chicago, escaped the Holocaust in Vienna with her childhood playmate, Kitty Saginor Binder. Though the two drifted and animosities grew between them over the years, when Kitty’s daughter finds her life in danger, she turns to Lotty for help. In turn, Lotty summons V. I. to take the case.
- Brush Back – No one would accuse V. I. Warshawski of backing down from a fight, but she’d happily avoid tangling with Chicago political bosses. Yet that’s what she ends up doing when she responds to a plea for help from an old high school flame, Frank Guzzo. Frank’s mother Stella was convicted of killing his kid sister, but now that she’s out of prison, she’s looking for exoneration.
- Wildcat (short story) – This short story is featuring investigator V.I. Warshawski as a ten-year-old girl on her first investigation.
- Fallout – V.I. Warshawski goe to Kansas, on the trail of a vanished film student and a faded Hollywood star. Accompanied by her dog, V.I. tracks her quarry through a university town, across fields where missile silos once flourished. But as the mysteries stack up, so does the body count.
- Shell Game – V.I. Warshawski returns to the Windy City to save an old friend’s nephew from a murder arrest. The case involves a stolen artifact that could implicate a shadowy network of international criminals. As V.I. investigates, she soon finds herself tangling with the Russian mob, ISIS backers, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen art that stretches from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East.
- Dead Land – Chicago may be the city of broad shoulders, but its political law is “Pay to Play.” Money changes hands in the middle of the night, and by morning, buildings and parks are replaced by billion-dollar projects. PI V.I. Warshawski gets pulled into one of these clandestine deals through her impetuous goddaughter, Bernie Fouchard. Bernie tries to rescue Lydia Zamir, a famed singer-songwriter now living on the streets; Zamir’s life fell apart when her lover was murdered next to her in a mass shooting at an outdoor concert.
- Overboard – On her way home from an all-night surveillance job, V.I. Warshawski is led by her dogs on a mad chase that ends when they discover a badly injured teen hiding in the rocks along Lake Michigan. The girl only regains consciousness long enough to utter one enigmatic word. V.I. helps bring her to a hospital, but not long after, she vanishes before anyone can discover her identity. As V.I. attempts to find her, the detective uncovers an ugly consortium of Chicago powerbrokers and mobsters who are prepared to kill the girl. And now V.I.’s own life is in jeopardy as well.
If you like our article about the V.I. Warshawski series in order, don’t forget to bookmark it! You may also be interested in the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton or the Nathan Heller series by Max Allan Collins for another detective from Chicago.