V. I. Warshawski

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For the film, see V.I. Warshawski (film).
V. I. Warshawski
VI Warshawski in Case Closed.jpg
Warshawski, as she appeared in volume 12 of Case Closed
First appearance Indemnity Only (1982)
Created by Sara Paretsky
Portrayed by Kathleen Turner
Aliases Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski
Gender Female
Occupation Private Investigator
Family Anton "Tony" Warshawski (father)
Gabriella Sestrieri (mother)
Spouse(s) Dick Yarborough (ex-husband)
Nationality American

Victoria Iphigenia "Vic" "V. I." Warshawski is a fictional private investigator from Chicago appearing in a series of detective novels and short stories written by Sara Paretsky.[1]

With the exception of "The Pietro Andromache", all of Warshawski's adventures are written in the first person.[citation needed]


Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski, called "Vic" by her friends, is the daughter of Italian-born Gabriella Sestrieri and Polish Anton "Tony" Warshawski, a former Chicago Police Officer. Gabriella died of cancer when Vic was in high school; Tony died ten years later in 1976, implying that Vic was born circa 1950. We also learn from Blood Shot (published as "Toxic Shock" in the U.K.) that Vic was last at her high school some 20 years previously, making the setting of this story in 1988, the year of the book’s publication. In an interview, Sara Paretsky pointed out that Warshawski aged in real time.[2]

Vic grew up on the Southeast Side of Chicago, in the shadow of shuttered steel mills and factories. After earning a law degree at the University of Chicago and a short stint as a Public Defender, she became a private detective specializing in white-collar crime. She is divorced from corporate lawyer Dick Yarborough and has no children.

In most novels, Vic is drawn into murder cases connected to white-collar crime and regularly ends up pursuing cases that affect her friends, estranged family, or those she feels are being bullied by the upper crust of Chicago.

A lean, athletic brunette who runs to keep in shape, Vic is not afraid of physical confrontations; relying on karate or her Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol with its nine-round magazine.[3]

Hot-tempered, sarcastic, and fiercely self-reliant, Vic prefers T-shirts and jeans and sleeps in the nude, but she can dress stylishly if necessary. She hates to admit being scared or vulnerable. Her capable and willful personality has led fans and literary critics to consider her one of the few feminist detectives.[4] She loves opera and classical music, often singing arias and playing her piano in times of stress. She stays trim despite a ravenous appetite and favors multi-course ethnic meals with good wine. She often indulges in big, greasy breakfasts and Kielbasa sausage sandwiches.[3]

She shares two dogs, Peppy and Mitch, with her neighbor.

In addition to one failed marriage, Vic has had a few lovers over the years. Some of them appear in more than one book, even after the relationship has ended.

Her closest friend is Viennese physician, Dr. Charlotte "Lotty" Herschel, who treats her various illnesses and combat-related injuries.

Recurring characters[edit]

  • Carol Alvarado, a nurse at Dr. Herschel's clinic
  • Sal Barthele, statuesque owner of the Golden Glow bar
  • Freeman Carter, Vic's legal counsel on retainer
  • Salvatore Contreras, downstairs widower neighbor and slightly overbearing friend
  • Terry Finchley, a police detective whom Vic interacts with regularly
  • Darraugh Graham, an extremely important and long-standing client
  • Dr. Charlotte "Lotty" Herschel, close friend and perinatologist at Beth Israel Hospital; formerly had her own clinic as a general practitioner
  • Max Loewenthal, Lotty’s significant other; executive director of Beth Israel Hospital and an art and music aficionado
  • Bobby Mallory, police officer and friend of Vic's father Tony
  • John McGonnigal, police officer who regularly interacts with Vic
  • Mary Louise Neely, an officer in the Chicago P.D. who provides a significant amount of assistance to Vic over time
  • Conrad Rawlings, a detective in the Chicago P.D.
  • Murray Ryerson, reporter at the Herald-Star newspaper; Vic's longtime friend and sometime rival



With year of first publication:

Short Story Collections[edit]


Only Deadlock has been turned into a film, V. I. Warshawski, with Kathleen Turner in the title role.[1] The film, which took many creative liberties with Paretsky's character, was meant as a franchise for Turner,[citation needed] but those plans were scrapped when it was not a commercial success, grossing only $11.1 million[5] domestically.

Radio Adaptations[edit]

BBC Radio 4 has produced four radio dramas based on the series. The first two, Deadlock and Killing Orders, feature Kathleen Turner reprising her movie role, with Eleanor Bron as Dr. Charlotte “Lotty” Herschel. The third, Bitter Medicine, stars Sharon Gless as Warshawski. A fourth production, Publicity Stunts, is a dramatic reading performed by Buffy Davis.

Popular culture[edit]

  • Warshawski was highlighted in volume 12 of the Case Closed manga's edition of "Gosho Aoyama's Mystery Library," a section of the graphic novels (usually the last page) where the author introduces a different detective (or occasionally, a villain) from mystery literature, television, or other media.
  • In the Flash animated Internet cartoon, Homestar Runner, V. I. Warshawski is mentioned on Version 10.2 and Version 16.2 of Marzipan's Answering Machine.


  1. ^ a b c Maslin, Janet (26 July 1991). "V.I. Warshawski". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  2. ^ "Author Sara Paretsky". Saraparetsky.com. 2010-08-31. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  3. ^ a b Grahnke, Lon (July 28, 1991). "V.I. Warshawski: A Surveillance Report". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  4. ^ Martin, Nora. (1996). "In the business of believing women's stories": Feminism through detective fiction (Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton) (M.A. thesis) Wilfrid Laurier University
  5. ^ "V. I. Warshawski". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-12-30.