Sara Paretsky

Body Work

"A new Paretsky novel is a wonderful treat and this one does not disappoint.'"


This story starts with a bang as V.I. Warshawski cradles a dying woman in her arms. The murder has taken place outside a night club with a very bizarre act - a young woman invites the audience to use her naked body as a canvas. Responses vary from the embarrassed, to the crude, to the deeply significant. The victim had been a regular contributor to the show, painting complex and beautiful designs on the bare flesh. These designs seem to have upset one of the Iraq veterans who is already suffering from the trauma of his war service. He becomes the immediate suspect and is arrested and confined in a prison hospital.

Warshawski was present, as her wayward young cousin has a part time job in the club. V.I. is engaged by the veteran’s family to clear his name. As a first move she has him transferred to the Beth Israel hospital where long term friend and mentor, Lotty, can supervise his care. As Warshawski investigates deeply into the workings of the club and the motivations of the audience, she uncovers many unsavoury and disturbing truths involving big business and the criminal world.

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A new Paretsky novel is a wonderful treat and this one does not disappoint. VI Warshawski still has scant respect for authority and a burning desire to see justice done. Her passion for the underdog means that she fights the odds to discover what really happened and why. As always, she is tough and takes some physical manhandling in her stride but she is at least acknowledging that she is getting older and does enlist some young strong men to help her face up to the villains. Warshawski pays little heed to the danger and physical assaults she puts her body through. Tough, straight talking and fiercely loyal to family and friends, she is a role model for those who would like to make a difference but just don’t have the nerve or the physique. Chicago’s seamier side is lovingly portrayed as are the great mixture of characters Warshawski comes across - at least the sympathetic ones. The villains are truly horrific. A point has been made in the past that some of the characters, including Warshawski herself, do not seem to suffer the ravages of time as other mere mortals. Lotty and Max, Mr Contreras and the dogs all go on avoiding many of the effects of aging. This time there has been an understanding that time is marching on. Warshawski is thinking more realistically and finds support when absolutely necessary. Personally I don’t mind that time is elastic - the characters are timeless and I wouldn’t like to lose any of the old favourites. ‘Body Work’ is yet another Paretsky winner!

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