Chicago’s brash and take-no-prisoners V.I. Warshawski is back in "Critical Mass" (Putnam 2013; $26.95), the 17th book about the private eye written by "New York Times" bestselling author Sara Paretsky. This time V. I. investigates not only a present-day woman in danger case but leaves the confines of Chicago for Vienna on a mystery leading back to pre-World War II Austria and a long buried secret.
For V.I. it begins when good friend, the Viennese-born doctor Lotty Herschel asks her to help the daughter of her childhood friend, Kitty Saginor Binder. Both Lotty and Kitty lost most of their families during the Holocaust, but the two managed to make it to London in 1939 on the Kindertransport.
As she begins to investigate, V.I. is pulled back to the secrets of Austria during the time when they were exploring atomic science. One of the major characters in Critical Mass is based on Viennese physicist Marietta Blau, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize for her work in the dark days before World War II.
“The more I learned about Blau, the more fascinated I became with the role women scientists played in research at Vienna’s important Institute for Radiation Research,” said Paretsky noting that because physics was such a new field at that time might have made it was more open to women than the other sciences. “With the Nazi takeover of Austria, women—and Jews—lost their positions.”
Science is a passion for Paretsky who supports Sisters4Science, an after-school program that gives middle school girls hands on exposure to experimental science. At her book launch on October 30, Girls from S4S will come to the reading and make a short presentation. Paretsky is donating her profits from book sales at this event to S4S.