REVIEW

In this short story collection, Sara Paretsky writes about and crime and love intertwined

  • Love & Other Crimes, by Sara Paretsky. Hodde, $32.99.

Sara Paretsky is one of only four living writers, and the only woman, to receive both the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and the Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain. In 1986 she created Sisters in Crime, a worldwide organization to support female crime writers, which now has more than 4,000 members.

Paretsky published her first novel featuring the feisty, uncompromising, Chicago private investigator, V.I. Warshawski , Indemnity Only, in 1982.

Since then there have been another 20 best-selling V.I. novels, and a not-very-successful film starring Kathleen Turner.

Love & Other Crimes is a collection of 14 short stories, eight featuring V.I., all of which have an afterword by Paretsky about their creation and their place in her life. The title story sees V.I. take on the case of a family friend who has been wrongly accused of murder.

To make matters more difficult, V.I. has to deal with the obnoxious sister of the accused and a family, "who turn dysfunction into an art form", before the case is resolved.

Paretsky writes in her introduction, "we kill out of passion, we kill out of love - love of money, but also love of family".

V.I.'s love of her police father Tony is very evident in "Wildcat", set in the turbulent days of the riots and racism surrounding Martin Luther King's August 1966 visit to Chicago.

The young Victoria places herself in danger to resolve what turns out to be her very first case. Her mother beseeches her never again to be "putting yourself in front of killers and mafiosi". Victoria responds, "of course, Mama, of course. I promise you."

Paretsky's love of Victorian crime fiction is reflected in her Arthur Conan Doyle "tweak", "The Curious Affair of the Italian Art Dealer". Paretsky assumes Dr Watson's voice in a story that pays homage to 19th century American writer Anna Katharine Green, whose detective stories preceded, and arguably influenced, those of Conan Doyle.

A regular character in the V.I. novels, Dr Charlotte "Lotte" Herschel, is the victim in the dystopian short story, "Safety First", set in a world of biased Homeland Security courts and a Keep America Safe Act which has seen Lotte imprisoned for "the medical treatment of undocumented aliens" and for abortions of women who have been raped.

It's a very relevant story for a contemporary America where the ground-breaking Roe v Wade judgment is allegedly under threat at the US Supreme Court.

The V.I. stories call out social inequity, misogyny, racism and corporate corruption, reflecting Paretsky's long-felt concerns over class, racial and sex discrimination in America.

This story Stories of love and crimes in all their forms first appeared on The Canberra Times.