Love & Other Crimes: Stories
“Issued as a paperback original, Love & Other Crimes is a perfect match for summer’s relaxing moments, whether they are long ones on vacation or short breathers between home-based neverending gig economy labors.”
Just in time for slipping a paperback of short stories into a beach bag (or toting it to the backyard reading chair) comes the collection Love & Other Crimes from Sara Paretsky. This is more than a gathering of short fiction from an acknowledged Grand Master of Mystery—Paretsky delights fans of her V. I. Warshawski detective series by dipping back in time into Vic’s own past on the South Side of Chicago for three of the 14 stories.
In addition, the collection includes Paretsky’s personal homages to such Golden Age of Detective Fiction authors as Agatha Christie and Anna Katharine Green. And, of course, there’s a Sherlock Holmes pastiche to round out the fun.
As Paretsky writes in her introduction, “We kill out of passion, we kill out of love—love of money, but also love of family, a desire to protect our reputations, to protect property; we kill out of a narcissistic wound when we’ve been betrayed or abandoned. We kill for revenge.”
The title story, “Love & Other Crimes,” opens with a challenge to detective V. I. Warshawski:
“’They’re trying to frame Gregory,’ she announced baldly.
‘Who are ‘they,’ who is Gregory, and what are ‘they’ saying he did?’ I asked.
‘F***ing Warshawki snob,’ she said. ‘I might have known. Like your mother, too good to walk around the planet with the ordinary mortals.’”
Even V. I., confronted with this complicated and patently untrue assertion, has to take a moment to figure out who’s in her office and why. Turns out it’s Sonia Litvak, a neighbor from when Vic was a kid, one who’s still wearing the chip on her shoulder she had back then. And the crime(s) involved can’t be separated from Vic’s own past. Paretsky packs a novel’s worth of family friction and underworld finagling into 35 pages.
That’s long for a “short” story, and it’s part of what makes this collection such a good read: Paretsky takes the time to frame setting and character, even dividing many of the stories into mini chapters of their own. There’s a paragraph after each tale where Paretsky opens up its backstory, and these add tasty seasoning to the book.
For example, “Is It Justice?” is a gift back to readers of her book Critical Mass (2013), as “a lot of readers” of that novel objected to character Cordell Breen’s escape. “Flash Point” was drafted to fit the Fifty Shades of Grey craze. “Trial by Fire” takes historical crime into noir terrain. And “Wildcat” turns out to lay “the groundwork” for Paretsky’s 2009 crime novel Hardball, which has a backstory in the riots of 1966.
Obviously, readers already somewhat familiar with Paretsky’s works will get extra pleasure from this gathering that stitches together so much of her previous writing as well as revealing personal and professional motives to her storytelling. Those meeting V. I. Warshawski for the first time here, though, can enjoy knowing this author has a backlist of more than 20 other crime novels to dive into afterward.
Issued as a paperback original, Love & Other Crimes is a perfect match for summer’s relaxing moments, whether they are long ones on vacation or short breathers between home-based neverending gig economy labors. Each story brings a change of pace, a clever crime, and a burning sense of what human justice demands. Which, of course, is exactly what one would expect from a Grand Master of Mystery.