Burn Marks by Sara Paretsky

‘Burn Marks’ is the 6th book in Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series, featuring a female private detective in Chicago. This one was written in 1990 and feels a bit dated in some parts – particularly the ‘Life on Mars’ style cops slapping people around and driving loud cars.

V.I’s crazy aunt Elena arrives at V.I’s apartment at 3am, upsetting the neighbours. Elena is a drunk and the cheap pay-by-the-month hotel she was living in has just burnt to the ground. V.I. allows her to stay one night (mainly to shut her up and allow the neighbours some sleep) even though she is not sure if she should believe her or if this is just another Elena scam.

The next day V.I. meets the insurance investigator at the scene of the burnt out hotel. The fire was definitely arson, and V.I. somehow manages to get the job of finding the arsonist.

But as soon as V.I. starts to get involved, just about everyone is trying to get her to stop – fire investigators, police, developers and politicians. For some reason I can’t understand, it takes V.I. most of the book to work out a link between developers and old buildings being burnt down???

Along the way, a friend of Elena’s is murdered, V.I. and Elena get locked in a building which is then burnt down and taken to the top of a tall building under construction. V.I. falls into bed with another man, has problems with an ex-lover and her car dies a horrible death. She upsets her neighbours and her friends, goes without food then pigs out at restaurants.


This was an incredibly busy book. By the time I’d finished I’d forgotten half of the characters. But it was a lot of fun and kept me on the edge of my seat despite the improbability of most of the situations in which V.I. found herself. Hopefully I can get my breath back before the next in the series – ‘Guardian Angel’.


Book Published 1990


See a full list of books by Sara Paretsky

Leave a Comment

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

Comments are closed.