Review: BODY WORK by Sara Paretsky

Posted 28 August, 2010 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | | 2 Comments

Final Grade: 93/A

Mystery
464 pages
Available Aug. 31, 2010
Review copy won from G.P. Putnam’s Sons through LibraryThing
Rated R

BLURB: The enigmatic performer known as the Body Artist takes the stage at Chicago’s Club Gouge and allows her audience to use her naked body as a canvas for their impromptu illustrations. V. I. Warshawski watches as people step forward, some meek, some bold, to make their mark.

The evening takes a strange turn when one woman’s sketch triggers a violent outburst from a man at a nearby table. Quickly subdued, the man-an Iraqi war vet-leaves the club. Days later, the woman is shot outside the club. She dies in V.I.’s arms, and the police move quickly to arrest the angry vet.

A shooting in Chicago is nothing new, certainly not to V.I., who is hired by the vet’s family to clear his name. As V.I. seeks answers, her investigation will take her from the North Side of Chicago to the far reaches of the Gulf War. 

REVIEW: V.I. certainly does know how to find trouble (or does trouble just find her?) and this time is no exception. An evening at a club leads Vic into a murky and dangerous case involving an angry Iraqi veteran turned scapegoat for a back-alley murder. Chad, the accused vet, is in a coma and his father hires V.I. to prove his son’s innocence.

What makes this series so enjoyable is not just the twisting mystery (which I can never seem to figure out). The characters are fantastic–diving into a V.I. Warshawski novel is like returning home to visit old friends with Vic as the driven, hard-boiled detective; Mr. Contreras as the nosy yet helpful neighbor; Lotty as the doctor who always patches Vic up; and who can forget the two dogs, Mitch and Peppy, who help keep V.I. sane and in shape (good dogs!).

But Vic’s getting older and getting beat up isn’t like it used to be. No knock-down, drag-out fight one night and easy bounce-back day the next for her anymore. And she’s found herself a nice, musical boyfriend who gets queasy at the sight of blood. I kind of got the impression he’d be much happier if she didn’t do what she does, especially when she comes home to him covered in bruises or bleeding.

Plus, she has to deal with her super-annoying young cousin, Petra. Petra bugged the crap out of me. If I were Vic, I would not be nearly as tolerant with her whining and manipulating. I think I would have kicked Petra to the curb. But that’s not V.I.’s style. She’s all about reforming the un-reformable and helping those who can’t help themselves (or just don’t want to help themselves), one of the reasons she’s such a sympathetic main character. On the outside, she’s a tough nut but inside, she’s got a soft heart.

Sara Paretsky keeps V.I. working hard and spins a great mystery, proving there’s nothing stale in BODY WORK, the fourteenth novel of this series.

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