Overboard by Sara Paretsky: A review


This is the twenty-first novel in the V.I. Warshawski series that Sara Paretsky first began publishing in 1982 with Indemnity Only. I've read them all. I've been a Warshawski fan since the beginning. 

So for forty years, Paretsky has been writing these books and I've been reading them. And one thing that I have enjoyed about them is that V.I. has aged through them, if not exactly forty years then at least enough to simulate reality. In this latest book, V.I. may be feeling the weight of those years a bit but her passion for justice is undiminished. 

As often in her cases, a teenager is involved. V.I., the hardboiled detective, has a certifiable soft spot for teenagers. This time it is a teenage girl who V.I.'s dog Mitch finds when they are on a walk around Lake Michigan. The girl is injured and unconscious and has only a faint pulse when V.I. checks her. She calls an ambulance and the girl is taken to the hospital after uttering only one word which seems to make no sense. She is treated at the hospital but then disappears while still needing medical care. We learn that some brutal and powerful people believe she is in possession of an item that they want and that is why she is on the run.  

Then another teenager turns up asking V.I.'s help. This one is a boy named Brad Litvak whose family she knows of from her old neighborhood. Brad fears that his father is in danger after he overhears a fraught conversation that he had on the phone. Moreover, his parents are in the midst of a particularly acrimonious divorce proceeding which complicates matters for Brad.

During all this, V.I. is also attempting to protect the Jewish temple Shaamar Hashomayim from a campaign of vandalism and hateful graffiti designed to get the temple to close. Her clients in this are the fragile and vulnerable elderly couple Dona Ilona and Emilio Pariente. Yes, V.I. has a soft spot for the elderly as well. In fact, she has a soft spot for anyone who is vulnerable or being bullied. And that is one of the things that we love about her.

We can depend on Sara Paretsky for well-written and believable stories in a series that has never shied away from addressing the problems that beset Chicago and most big cities. These include things like economic and health care inequalities, a police force with a reputation for brutality, and a government that is politically divided and often more concerned with maintaining power than with solving problems. Her detective deals with all of these problems in the course of her work and through her we learn that in addition to the bad guys at work there are also those who are as dedicated as she is to seeing justice done. Perhaps there is hope for us.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 


  1. WOW, I guess you are a fan of this author and series - impressive. I've never tried this author so I guess I am missing out.

    1. If you are into mysteries featuring kickass female detectives V.I. Warshawski is your gal!

  2. I used to read Sara Paretsky all the time, but then I just got away from her books and I haven't read a V.I. Warshawski book in years. I do love the sound of this one, with the teens and that elderly couple. I definitely want to read this one. :)

  3. I love this series but have read only about a third of the books so far. In fact, I just recently went back to read the first book after all the years I've been reading them. Like you, I love it when the main characters in a series age in something akin to real time, the way that Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly handle Rebus and Bosch, respectively.

    1. You've mentioned two more of my personal favorites. And if you've only read a third of these books so far, you've got a lot of good reading ahead of you, Sam.


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