In any discussion of the living legends of crime fiction, the name Sara Paretsky will quickly be mentioned. Sara Paretsky became a champion for women writers when in 1986 she was instrumental in the founding of Sisters in Crime, but over the years she has proven that she is a champion for all writers. Always one to advocate for the underdog, it is no surprise that Sara Paretsky has been at the forefront of protests during the United States’ current tumultuous times.
Which brings us to Sara Paretsky’s new short story release. Like most of her writing, “Wildcat” confronts political themes and attitudes, but in this case she does so not by looking at current events, but by harkening to days of the past.
In August of 1966, as Chicago descends into riots over racial mistreatment, 10-year-old Victoria Warshawski – she who would grow to become V. I. Warshawski – learns her first lesson about man’s ability to be cruel to fellow man. For it is during this unrest that Victoria solves her first murder case – with only the skills she has learned from her parents (and her Brownie camera).
With Martin Luther King Jr. in town and citizens feeling unheard, a large protest over the changes to the open housing laws breaks out in the city. When Victoria’s Uncle Tomasz picks up her cousin in his Buick Wildcat, there is no way that Victoria is going to be the “good girl” and stay at home. When she overhears a threat made against her own father, Victoria thrusts herself into the center of the chaos in an effort to warn him. This is a decision that will put her very life in danger.
Victoria’s parents have taught her the difference between right and wrong, they have shown her the power of working hard and always being honest, but most of all, they have instilled in her a sense of loyalty. The events of that day will call all of that into question as she sees injustices perpetrated and acts of corruption committed by those she has revered (namely, police officers).
Longtime fans will see in this the beginnings of V.I. Warshawski’s moral compass. In this girlhood version of this beloved character her future tenacity and integrity are born. The Wildcat of the title is as much a reference to the physical automobile that plays a significant role in the plot as it is an allusion to the traits of the animal itself, which Warshawski also exhibits (such as being largely solitary and a fierce predator).
Readers often wonder what their favorite characters were like as children and here Sara Paretsky offers some answers. “Wildcat” is also a wonderful chance to learn more about V. I. Warshawski’s mother, Gabriella, whose early death has such an impact on this singular woman.
This is a brief, but powerful story and readers will be thrilled to know that a new full-length V. I. Warshawski novel called Fallout will be released very soon. Leave it to Sara Paretsky to be there when we need her the most.
“It starts with name calling and ends with death, always.”
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.