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Burn Marks (1990)

by Sara Paretsky

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: V.I. Warshawski (6)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1241718,104 (3.56)22
Fiction. Mystery. Thriller. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Another triumph for Ms. Paretsky, her most captivating novel yet . . . V.I. herself [is] undoubtedly one of the best-written characters in mystery fiction.”—The Baltimore Sun

Someone knocking on the door at 3 A.M. is never good news. For V.I. Warshawski, the bad news arrives in the form of her wacky, unwelcome aunt Elena. The fire that has just burned down a sleazy SRO hotel has brought Elena to V.I.’s doorstep. Uncovering an arsonist—and the secrets hidden behind Elena’s boozy smile—will send V.I. into the seedy world of Chicago’s homeless . . . into the Windy City’s backroom deals and bedroom politics, where new schemers and old cronies team up to get V.I. off the case—by hook, by crook, or by homicide.

“One gritty good read . . . V.I. is a worthy heir to Marlowe!”—Daily News (New York).
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» See also 22 mentions

English (15)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
It's... fine. The mystery is ell-constructed, the pacing is good. It's just missing some more humor. ( )
  cwebb | Apr 25, 2024 |
I have been told by many of my friends that once I got to "Burn Marks" I would love VI Warshawski. Since these books have been hit or miss with me I thought my friends were full of it. Happily, they were not.

"Burn Marks" delves once more into Victoria's messed up family. Her father's sister, Elena (who we have not heard of until now) is a barely functional alcoholic. She pops up on Victoria's doorstep at 3 am looking for a place to stay since the room she had in a single room occupancy (SRO) building caught on fire leaving her homeless. Victoria calls on her uncle (who sucks by the way) to help her out, but it looks like Victoria may be stuck with her aunt for sometime. Then her aunt shows up again with a friend who needs help saying that her baby died in the fire. Couple this with the fact that Victoria keeps getting warned off looking into a friend of hers background spells danger for Victoria.

Victoria is 37 in this one and feeling her age a bit. She's realized that kids and another husband are not in the cards for her. What I like though, is that it doesn't bother her at all. What made me laugh a bit about this book is that Victoria really doesn't want to be involved with looking into what her old friend is up to. But people keep acting like asses to her so she perversely decides to figure out what is going on. And for long time readers they know that Victoria is a feminist and went to school with like minded women. And the blow back she gets about not being there for women when she starts looking into what her friends is getting into felt raw and real. I love the line that she throws out that being a feminist does not mean just letting some other woman walk all over her and or turn a blind eye to whatever she's up to.

She also has a lot of guys thrown at her in this one, but resists a godson of Bobby's that is also on the police force. She realizes that her need to be independent will never work with his need to just have a woman sit there and be pretty.

And man oh man, I love that Victoria and Bobby once and for all have it out in this one. I really loathed this character (Bobby) for 6 books. His dismissing Victoria and always blaming her for being in danger (if she just get married and have kids, none of this would happen) finally hits a point that Victoria has to decide whether it is wise to even be in his life anymore.

We have appearances by Lotty and Mr. Contreras. I am really tired of the character of Mr. Contreras. Seriously. I have a bad feeling he is going to be in the rest of the books and I need him to go away.

I did laugh about the budding war between Victoria and her downstairs neighbor due to her and her late night visitors.

The writing in this one was really good and the flow worked very well. This book touches upon feminism, race, Chicago politics, etc. I can honestly say that I was wondering how everything was going to tie up in the end, but it does work wonderfully. I do wonder if Elena is going to pop up in any other books or not.

The ending left Victoria I think with finally getting some much needed respect from the police force. I do wonder though what is going to happen in the next book. Can't wait to read it. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
Private Eye Warshawski investigates arson and murder and deals with her alcoholic aunt and Chicago politicians and corrupt police. This story has greatly grown the character. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
I listened to this as an audiobook--and honestly, I don't know if it is the narrator or the intent of the author but sometimes I feel that V.I. is not very smart in her choices. She'll say things she probably shouldn't--things that sometimes antagonize the very people she should be trying to avoid getting mad at her. She'll go do dangerous things on her own because she thinks the police won't do it or won't take her seriously etc.

I agree with another reviewer that this book seems dated. There were a few times in the story that I thought "a cell phone would make this so much easier" which also means the plot would have to have changed.

I haven't figured out why so many people don't recognize that V. I. can be independent and smart and still be a woman. Yes, she doesn't seem to want what most of her women acquaintances want (which seems to be a marriage and family) but that doesn't make her less of a woman.

Once again, we get a family member that we've never heard of before show up needing V.I.'s help. Once again I wonder how V.I. keeps her bills paid as she seems to devote quite a bit of time to this non-paying client. She doesn't seem to regularly check in with her answering service to get her messages. She doesn't seem to put in much time on paying clients or getting new paying clients. She doesn't ever seem to find time to go grocery shopping (which I guess is one less bill to pay).

I'm not sure I ever did disentangle the whole plot point involving Roz and her cousin's construction firm. ( )
  JenniferRobb | Sep 22, 2019 |
As I've previously read some of the series after viewing the movie with Kathleen Turner as Victoria 'V.I.' Warshawski, also known as Vic, reading another novel in the series is returning to spend time with a favorite character as created by Sara Paretsky. In fact, after reading "Blood Shot" I was ready to read another and I picked up the next one in the series. I haven't read them all in order and the novels can be read as "stand alone" titles but as with any series, it's interesting to read the character development in the progression written by the author and see how the series unfolds.

In this novel, the reader meets Vic's Aunt Elena and also learns more of the background for the relationship between Vic and Sergeant Bobby Mallory. ( )
  FerneMysteryReader | Nov 16, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paretsky, Saraprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
García Ripoll, Ma. JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaiser, DietlindTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rogde, IsakOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rook, Ruudsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruitenberg, JosephineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruuska, IrmeliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Patti Shepherd, Jayanne Angell,
and Bill Mullins,
who believed in my writing before I did
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My mother and I were trapped in her bedroom, the tiny upstairs room of our old house on Houston.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Fiction. Mystery. Thriller. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Another triumph for Ms. Paretsky, her most captivating novel yet . . . V.I. herself [is] undoubtedly one of the best-written characters in mystery fiction.”—The Baltimore Sun

Someone knocking on the door at 3 A.M. is never good news. For V.I. Warshawski, the bad news arrives in the form of her wacky, unwelcome aunt Elena. The fire that has just burned down a sleazy SRO hotel has brought Elena to V.I.’s doorstep. Uncovering an arsonist—and the secrets hidden behind Elena’s boozy smile—will send V.I. into the seedy world of Chicago’s homeless . . . into the Windy City’s backroom deals and bedroom politics, where new schemers and old cronies team up to get V.I. off the case—by hook, by crook, or by homicide.

“One gritty good read . . . V.I. is a worthy heir to Marlowe!”—Daily News (New York).

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