Breakdown by Sara Paretsky

This is the first book by Sara Paretsky that I’ve read, but it’s part of a long running series (30 years and 15 novels) featuring the private investigator V. I. (Victoria Iphigenia) Warshawski.

A group of 12 and 13 year olds are part of a book group reading the latest teen craze – Carmilla, Queen of the Night. They have taken the books so seriously that they have developed their own initiation ritual and have snuck into a cemetery in the middle of the night to carry it out. But, one of the girls has a younger sister who calls the book group leader who just happens to be V. I.’s cousin. V. I. races through the night and finally finds the girls just as they discover a body – killed vampire-style with a stake through the heart.

As V. I. starts to look into the murder, she also discovers that some of her teens are from very high-profile families. One is the granddaughter of Chaim Salanter, a billionaire who escaped from the Nazi’s in Europe as a child and one is the daughter of a senate candidate – Sophie Durango. And, the most powerful media group around is trying to discredit Salanter and Durango and their ‘liberal’ politics.

The investigation takes V. I. to a mental health home where a friend of hers, suffering from extreme bipolar disorder, has been staying.

Eventually, through a trail of more murders, kidnapping, bribery and an attempt on her own life, V. I. manages to uncover the reason behind the original murder and the events that went on afterwards.


V. I. Warshawski is an excellent character as a detective. She’s so real and believable. Although, not all parts of the story seemed quite as believable as the character of V. I.

The start of the novel read a bit like teens fiction and having not read any Sara Paretsky before, I was a bit worried that I’d landed in the wrong book. It did however, with a bit of perseverance, grow into an adult novel. The end of the novel where ‘all is revealed’ is a bit over the top, but that’s probably just my impression as a non-American.

The middle parts of the book were excellent, although if I hadn’t seen some TV coverage of the 2012 US elections, I would have found Global Entertainment Network (GEN) pretty hard to believe. Having watched some election coverage, GEN seems to qualify as pretty normal.

Having met V. I. as a gritty 50 year old, I’m now keen to see what she was doing in her 20s and 30s. So, I’m hoping to backtrack through earlier novels in the series.


Book Published 2012


See a full list of books by Sara Paretsky

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Crime, Detective, Paretsky, Sara, Series Fiction, Thriller

One Response to Breakdown by Sara Paretsky

  1. Pingback: Body Work by Sara Paretsky | Written Gems

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>