Shell Game is a V. I. Warshawski thriller.

Of all America’s great cities, Chicago stands out as the prime example of corruption. (Admittedly, Los Angeles and New Orleans are in the running as well.) And if Chicago’s corruption has its bard, she is Sara Paretsky, author of the long-running series of V. I. Warshawski detective novels. Nearly 40 years after launching the series, she is still in fine form in her latest entry in the series, Shell Game.

A V. I. Warshawski thriller: uncovering fraud in high places

Private eye V. I. (Victoria) Warshawski is now in middle age. She is no longer quite so likely to best a large, menacing opponent in a physical confrontation. But her skills as an investigator are finely honed, and she has gained an enviable citywide reputation for her success in uncovering fraud in high places, both within private industry and in city government. Her specialty is, in fact, financial fraud. It’s her bread and butter. The problem is, the cases that come her way often take her in new directions. In Shell Game, V. I. is dragged into not one but two cases involving people close to her. And neither one will help her pay the bills.

Shell Game (V. I. Warshawski #20) by Sara Paretsky (2018) 400 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)

Two knotty cases. Are they connected?

First, a great-nephew of her good friend Lotty Herschel, a Holocaust survivor who is a prominent physician, is accused of a murder he almost certainly didn’t commit. On top of that, he is Canadian, and because of his Syrian friends, the INS is convinced he’s a terrorist and wants to deport him. Then, one of V. I.’s nieces, a daughter of her ex-husband’s sister, shows up in town desperate to find her sister, who has disappeared. Are the two cases connected somehow? As readers of mystery and suspense fiction, we’re inclined to believe they are. But only time will tell. And in the meantime it’s inevitable that more than one murder will turn up. This is, after all, a V. I. Warshawski thriller.

“The hyperwealthy aren’t like you and me.”

“The hyperwealthy aren’t like you and me,” Warshawski muses. “Not, as Hemingway supposedly told Fitzgerald, because they have more money, but because the money makes them think their needs, however debased, should be met on the instant.” V. I. encounters this attitude once again in Shell Game, as she has in so many other cases. What began as an effort to help two young people brings her face-to-face with a dangerous adversary at the pinnacle of Chicago society.

About the author

Since the publication in 1982 of Sara Paretsky’s first V. I. Warshawski thriller, Indemnity Only, the Chicago-based author has carved out a reputation as one of the leading lights in the mystery and thriller genre. She is one of only two living writers—alongside John le Carré—to have received both the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and the Cartier Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain. (A third, Sue Grafton, passed away in 2017.) And Paretsky’s wise-cracking detective has served as the prototype of the tough female detective for more than three decades.

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