A new book by Sara Paretsky is always worth buying in hardback. Her new novel Body Work, sees her private eye protagonist V. I. Warshawski being hired to clear the name of an Iraqi war vet, who seems to be suffering from PTSD. For those who don’t know her, Warshawski is an independent PI who lives and works in Chicago. She grew up on the south side of Chicago, in the strong neighborhoods there. Her mother Gabriela was an opera singer from Italy and her father worked for the Chicago Police Department before he was killed. V. I. or Vic as she is known to her friends is visiting the club with her cousin Petra when a woman she barely knows is shot outside in the alley and dies in her arms.
As she rightly points out she is actually being hired to investigate whether Chad the Iraqi war vets is guilty or not, and certainly the evidence seems to point to his guilt. The title refers partly to an artist performing at the club who performs nude on stage and allows people to come up and paint on her body while assistants record the event with webcams.
If you only know VI from the rather poor movie they made about 20 years ago with Kathleen Turner, then you are missing out on one of the best detective series around. The VI novels seem to slot perfectly into ready-made receptors of how you see the world. Usually VI finds herself outplayed and out gunned by large rapacious legal firms or as in this case military contractors in Iraqi. As a “mega- feminist” as she is described by her cousin in this book, and equally as someone with completely uncompromising values, she makes the perfect protagonist that you can relate to and yet the same time exactly because of her uncompromising stance toward the world, her life is extremely difficult. Personally I find her very inspiring and despite the grubbiness of the human condition she encounters I always come away cheered by her attitude.
I am not an avid detective or mystery story reader as Rob Kitchen, who seems to somehow read a novel a day, but I do highly recommend the Warshawski novels.