Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is a mild-mannered, genteel lady who ferrets out crime by using her considerable wits. Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski is nothing like that. Mild manners? Nope. As a matter of fact, Warshawski has a gritty personality that grinds on just about everyone she meets. Genteel? Uh, that would be a no. And while Warshawski certainly has brains, she’s not above throwing a few good punches when the situation warrants.
Paretsky, who is in Houston to discuss and sign copies of her new book, Breakdown, created Warshawski in response to namby-pamby women in detective fiction, like Miss Marple, the eternal virgin. “I don’t know anyone like that,” says Paretsky. “I’m not sure I would have ever started writing for publication if I hadn’t had this need to create a woman character who could be a real person, a problem solver. I wanted to create someone who, like me and my friends, had sexual ups and downs but who still had a life beyond that.” Enter Warshawski, a rough-and-tumble character Paretsky fashioned to be not only realistic, but inspiring. “I wish I was as much of a risk-taker as she is and as carefree as she is.”
In Breakdown, Warshawski is faced with the ultimate opponent — a gaggle of tween girls. She finds them in an abandoned cemetery in the middle of the night performing an initiation ritual so they can become followers of a shape-shifting raven named Carmilla. The fact that Carmilla is a fictional character doesn’t deter the girls from wanting to be followers. Warshawski has come to fetch them home, but that plan changes when she finds a dead man with a stake driven through his heart just a few feet away from the girls. 6:30 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit www.murderbooks.com. Free.
Thu., Jan. 5, 2012