The Paretsky Project

There are dozens of mystery series with female protagonists, some with millions of fans.  FD likes female protagonists but hasn’t found most of these series to be compelling.  There’s the numbered-title series by Janet Evanovich, and the alphabetical series by Sue Grafton, not to mention Marcia Muller’s mysteries featuring the private detective Sharon McCone, a very long series that started in 1977.  And those are just some of the most prominent.  The number of caterers, book store owners, dog walkers, cat owners, and other women who appear in mystery after mystery speaks to the power of women readers, who keep these series popular.  FD has read  a number of books in a developing series by Sophie Hannah that includes a complicated woman character who is in the British police, but that character is one of a group, not a primary focus of the novels.

Despite having some misgivings over series in general and despite having a dim memory of having not enjoyed reading one (now not even sure which one) book in the series that was read long ago, FD recently decided to read the entire V.I. Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky,   FD has also seen the disaster of a movie made from the series, starring Kathleen Turner.  A movie that should have worked, but didn’t.  Nevertheless, after reading several good reviews of the latest Warshwski mystery, FD decided to give the whole series another chance.

FD has now read the first Warshawski novel and is mostly through the second.  It is interesting to see a writer developing a character, and using the tropes of mystery writing.  In the first novel, Paretsky writes an unpleasant scene in which Warshawski, like Sam Spade and other “hard boiled” detectives, is badly beaten by the bad guys.  In the second novel, Warshawski is in a car accident and a blown-up grain delivery ship.  None of these events has caused any lasting scars.  There’s also a funny rant in the second novel, the protagonist finds pagers offensive and decries the idea of being constantly available to an employer.  At this date, it’s almost cute.

The novels have each had a male character who serves as a possible romantic interest and is also part of the mystery.  FD will be watching to see if that model continues in subsequent books in the series.

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