Oh, V.I. Warshawski, how I've missed you! It seems an age since we had our last adventure, although, in truth, it has only been two years since we solved the mystery of Brush Back together. But what a pleasure it is to be once again in your company.
I've been making these periodic visits to Warshawski-World since the 1980s when Sara Paretsky started this series. Paretsky, Warshawski, and I have aged together through the years. There are a few more gray hairs among the blonde on Warshawski's head these days and, if the truth be told, on mine as well.
But Warshawski is still the wiry, fit detective that we first met in Indemnity Only all those years ago. And she's still the same indomitable, uncompromising seeker after truth that we've come to know and admire in that and all the subsequent seventeen V.I. books. She only gets better with age and experience.
In Fallout, V.I. leaves the comfort zone that she knows so well, Chicago, and heads out to Lawrence, Kansas, searching for an actress and a videographer who have disappeared there. The actress is Emerald Ferring, who grew up (as did Sara Paretsky) in Lawrence, and the young videographer is August Veriden, who is a cousin of Angela Creedy, a teammate of Bernadine Fouchard, goddaughter of V.I. who we met in Brush Back. Got all that?
Bernadine (Bernie) and Angela want V.I. to go to Lawrence to find the two who have gone missing and Vic finds a paying customer willing to make it worth her while to take the case. And so she makes the drive to Lawrence with her dog, Peppy, as company. (Her other dog, Mitch, gets to stay in Chicago, and be boarded.)
Lawrence proves to be a close-knit, close-mouthed community with a racial divide. African-Americans live mostly on one side of town while white people live on the other. The two people that Vic is looking for are African-American and she finds Kansans very suspicious of her and hesitant to share any information. Moreover, she has no resources in Kansas to fall back on. Even the local police seem unwilling to cooperate in any way in looking for Emerald and August.
The body count begins to mount and Vic uncovers some local secrets that everyone would prefer remained secret, including information about biochemical weapons research that was conducted in the county back in the 1950s. She discovers a right-wing militia group that is active in the area, as well government officials who may be trying to cover up a disaster that took place during the biochemical weapons research. But she's making no progress on finding her missing persons.
Meanwhile, on the personal front, her lover Jake, the jazz musician, is touring in Europe and wanted Vic to go with him. When she went to Kansas instead, he was seriously put out and it looks as though the relationship may not survive. Poor Vic! She never did have very good luck with men.
This is one of Paretsky's more complicated plots, but she never falters and it all comes together and makes sense in the end. And as always, there are clues strewn through the text for the sharp-eyed reader. I was right there with her all the way through, enjoying every minute of the story. This may be my favorite of all the Warshawski books. If not, it's right near the top.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars