Which is why Sara Paretsky's books are so refreshing. Like all good detective writers, she needs a good detective, and Paretsky created one of the best a quarter century or so ago. She has kept coming back to the inimitable V. I. Warshawski, and I'm glad she has. Warshawski grew up the daughter of a cop in the tough ethnic neighborhoods of south Chicago, down where the ports and the factories run together into the marshes that bleed over into Indiana. She is comfortable living alone (although she enjoys her earthy pleasures), and she takes a punch, a shot, a sharp piece of glass in the shoulder, or any number of more exotic forms of pain with few complaints and very little hospital time.
And she knows Chicago, her city. The intimate knowledge of a gritty city is probably the next most important element of good detective writing, and Paretsky obviously knows and loves the length and breadth of hers. Her latest Warshawski novel, Fire Sale, spends most of its time down with the poor folks in south Chicago but moves easily up north to the neighborhoods of the very rich, or into Evanston, where Warshawski's latest boyfriend recovers from his war wounds in his comfortable flat, surrounded by interesting, international visitors.