4 stars out of 5
Victoria (V.I.) Warshawski has long been a favorite of mine; she was a successful Chicago-based private detective and one of the first to be (gasp!) a woman. Over the years, I've always looked forward to a new adventure - and this, I believe, is the 18th.
This time, though, a new case takes her from her familiar, comfortable home city to the "wilds" of Kansas - accompanied only by her dog Peppy and expecting that her stay in the Sunflower State will be relatively brief. The reason for the trip? A young Chicago filmmaker wannabe is thought to be accompanying an aging former film star who wants to return to her Kansas roots to film her life story, and both have disappeared. To keep the peace with family and friends, Vic reluctantly agrees to track them down.
What she finds is a close-knit community (make that two communities - one white and one black) that is far less than welcoming. The local residents' unwillingness to help is echoed by the local police and representatives of the U.S. Army, who clearly resent her presence. Apparently, the community has lots of secrets they believe should stay that way, all seemingly related to an old Cold War-era missile site in the middle of their otherwise rural nowhere.
Tensions build up quickly, as does the body count. Complicating matters is that even if Vic can convince someone to share information with her, can he or she be trusted? What really went on at the missile site all those years ago, and could it possibly be going on yet today? Other complications intervene as well: Her musician love interest left for a can't-miss opportunity overseas, leaving her behind when she refused to accompany him. Will he come back to her, or find fulfillment and romance elsewhere? And will Peppy become so attached to his Kansas doggy day-care helpers that she won't want to go back home to Chicago with Vic?
It all adds up to a merry, and sometimes scary, chase that I enjoyed from start to finish. Admittedly, it's not the best I've read in the series, but that was mostly because there were so many characters that I finally gave up trying to keep them straight, figuring they'd all be sorted out in the end (they were). And, while the story line was very interesting to someone like me, who remembers hiding under a desk at school so I'd stay safe during a nuclear attack (I know, I know, but we believed it at the time), the complexity of the "cover-ups" here was a little hard to swallow.
All in all, it's another solid installment in a series that's been (and still is) special to me.
Fallout by Sara Paretsky (William Morrow, April 2017); 448 pp.