Sarah Paretsky (1948 – ) was born in Ames, Iowa and raised in Kansas, graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in political science. She did community service work on the south side of Chicago in 1966 and returned in 1968 to work there. She ultimately completed a Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago; her dissertation was entitled “The Breakdown of Moral Philosophy in New England Before the Civil War.” She also earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Married to a professor of physics at the University of Chicago, she has lived in Chicago since 1968.
The protagonist of all but two of Paretsky’s novels is V.I. Warshawski, a female private investigator, who was featured in a 1991 film starring Kathleen Turner. Paretsky is credited with transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel. The Winter 2007 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection is devoted to her work. She is also considered the founding mother of Sisters in Crime, an organization that supports and promotes women in the mystery field. Paretsky was named 2011 Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America
Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski, called “Vic” by her friends, is the daughter of Italian-born Gabriella Sestrieri and Polish Anton “Tony” Warshawski, a former Chicago Police Officer. Gabriella died of cancer when Vic was in high school; Tony died ten years later in 1976, implying that Vic was born circa 1950. We also learn from Blood Shot (published as “Toxic Shock” in the U.K.) that Vic was last at her high school some 20 years previously, making the setting of this story in 1988, the year of the book’s publication. In an interview, Sara Paretsky pointed out that Warshawski aged in real time.
Vic grew up on the Southeast Side of Chicago, in the shadow of shuttered steel mills and factories. After earning a law degree at the University of Chicago and a short stint as a Public Defender, she became a private detective specializing in white-collar crime. She is divorced from corporate lawyer Dick Yarborough and has no children. A lean, athletic brunette who runs to keep in shape, carries a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol with its nine-round magazine.
Hot-tempered, sarcastic, and fiercely self-reliant, Vic prefers T-shirts and jeans and sleeps in the nude, but she can dress stylishly if necessary. She stays trim despite a ravenous appetite and favors multi-course ethnic meals with good wine. She often indulges in big, greasy breakfasts and Kielbasa sausage sandwiches. She shares two dogs, Peppy and Mitch, with her neighbor. In addition to one failed marriage, Vic has had a few lovers over the years. Some of them appear in more than one book, even after the relationship has ended. Her closest friend is Viennese physician, Dr. Charlotte “Lotty” Herschel, who treats her various illnesses and combat-related injuries.
- Indemnity Only (1982)
- Deadlock (1984) Basis of the film V.I. Warshawski, starring Kathleen Turner
- Killing Orders (1985)
- Bitter Medicine (1987)
- Blood Shot (1988) Published as Toxic Shock in the UK.
- Burn Marks (1990)
- Guardian Angel (1992)
- Tunnel Vision (1994)
- Hard Time (1999)
- Total Recall (2001)
- Blacklist (2003)
- Fire Sale (2005)
- Hardball (2009)
- Body Work (2010)
- Breakdown (2012)
- Critical Mass (2013)