Fallout is a 2017 novel from bestselling author Sara Paretsky. It is also the most recent novel in her long-running “V.I. Warshawski” series of novels featuring Chicago-based private investigator, Victoria Iphigenia “V.I.” Warshawski. The series began in 1982 with the novel, Indemnity Only. In Fallout, V.I., also known as “Vic,” travels to Kansas on the trail of a vanished film student and a faded Hollywood star and finds herself also investigating a decades-old conspiracy.
As Fallout begins, V.I. is approached by a young friend, Bernadine Fouchard, and Bernadine's cousin, Angela Creedy, to find a missing relative, a young Black man named August Veriden. August is a film student and budding filmmaker, and although no one knows where he is, the police want to talk to him because he is a person of interest (lead suspect) in a break-in at his job. It does not take long for V.I. to learn that others are looking for August and are willing to tear apart a workplace or home to find him.
V.I. discovers that August left Chicago in the company of Emerald Ferring, an actress best known for starring in a few African-American cult films in the 1960s. V.I. follows the duo to Kansas, but by the time she gets to Lawrence, Kansas (home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks), she learns that the military is also interested in Veriden and Ferring whereabouts. Their arrival in Kansas and subsequent disappearance seems tied to events in 1983, a year when anti-nuclear protests brought Ferring back to her Kansas home. Something bad happened back then and it is starting to happen again. This missing persons case may be V.I. toughest case, and as the bodies pile up, she discovers that even she isn't safe.
THE LOWDOWN: I read a few V.I. Warshawski novels back in the 1990s, maybe even in the late 1980s. I don't know what got me started. Was it the movie, V.I. Warshawski, starring husky-voiced Kathleen Turner in the title role? Was it because I heard, while listening to a radio show (National Public Radio?), that a then-new V.I. novel was one of then President Bill Clinton's favorite books?
Well, I liked the two (or three) that I read, but school and work slowed my novel reading to, at best, one or two novels per year. I never forgot V.I. and always wanted to return to the series. When William Morrow's marketing offered a review copy of Fallout to bloggers, I jumped at it. I am not at all disappointed; V.I. is as lovely a character as I remembered.
Fallout starts out as a standard P.I. (private investigator) novel, more or less. The goal for the investigator, in this case, V.I., is to find someone and eventually another someone. By the time, V.I. has made it from one end of Kansas to the other, Fallout starts to feel like a conspiracy thriller, and as the readers go deeper into the narrative, they can be forgiven for thinking that Fallout might be a little bit military thriller.
Ultimately, Fallout represents the best of a V.I. Warshawski novel – the mystery/suspense/crime novel that is more than a little bit different. Sara Paretsky offers an irresistible narrative flow that makes it hard to stop reading. Paretsky and her character, V.I Warshawski, are legends because they both deliver ferocious crime novels like Fallout.
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: Fans of V.I. Warshawski and readers looking for unique novels starring P.I.'s will want Fallout.