Written by Sara Paretsky — I’d love to have a girls’ night out in Chicago with VI Warshawski. We’re in the same age group, and I think we’d have a ball. I feel like I’ve known Vic for years. After all, she’s been around for 15 novels now and I think of her as an old friend – which is why I’m allowed to call her Vic.
That’s probably why I found myself on the edge of my seat throughout the runaway train ride that is Breakdown, and rooting for Warshawski every step of the way. Anyone who has met Victoria Iphigenia in the aforementioned novels, or read Paretsky’s short stories about her, will know she is a woman not to be messed with. Vic is also a girl who likes to be of help, so when she receives a call from her niece, Petra, telling her a bunch of teenagers from the book club have skipped curfew and are on the loose in a derelict graveyard, hunting for vampires, the private investigator volunteers to round them up and get them home safely.
It sounds simple enough, until she spots the body of a man laid out on a tombstone… with a stake through his heart for good measure. The victim is a fellow PI, Miles Wuchnik, and to complicate matters one of the truants is the daughter of the Democratic candidate for the Senate, while another is the granddaughter of one of Chicago’s richest men. Is it mere coincidence that they were all in the same place at the same time, or is something much more sinister going on? As the death count rises, Vic finds herself pulled deeper and deeper into a mystery that refuses to leave her alone.
Fans know what to expect of the premiership pairing of Paretsky and Warshawski and you will not be disappointed with Breakdown. The title itself can be construed in myriad different ways – from the mental breakdown which has been suffered by one of Vic’s oldest friends, to dire warnings of the breakdown of society being bandied about by a right-wing, flavour of the month TV presenter, plus a number of crucial breakdowns in communication to thicken the plot as the story progresses.
And it’s a humdinger of a tale. Take a dash of crooked politics, add illicit love, mental illness, the Holocaust, and over-the-top- TV news broadcasting, and you’ll get something of the flavour of a story that progresses at breathtaking speed, with whiplash-inducing twists that may leave you with a perpetually dropped jaw.
In short, it’s an excellent read. The book pulled me in from chapter one and refused to let me out of its clutches until I reached the end. Paretsky is right on top of her game here and Warshawsky fans will not be disappointed. Though part of a series, Breakdown can easily be read as a stand-alone story, but newcomers to the series will probably finish this novel and start penning their wishlist of the books that went before.
Breakdown is available in hardback and for Kindle and iBook, with the paperback out next month.
Hodder & Stoughton
CFL Rating: 5 Stars