Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky
Whilst it is wonderful to see a rather splendid array of new titles on the bookshelves at our favourite stores, sometimes you just have to revisit an old friend. Published all the way back in 1982, I first discovered the books of Sara Paretsky through my sister I believe.
I first read the V.I Warshawski novels in the mid 1990's, as I was looking for further female-led crime novels. Having enjoyed Patricia Cornwell and Sue Grafton, I was delighted to meet V.I. She's great. Sometimes though, books do not stand the test of time. So how would this fare? Let's find out shall we?
Meeting an anonymous client on a sizzling summer night is asking for trouble. Especially when the client lies and tells V.I. Warshawski he's the prominent banker John Thayer looking for his son'e missing girlfriend. But V.I soon discovers the real John Thayer's son - and he's dead.
As V.I begins to question her mysterious client's motives, she sinks deeper into Chicago's darker side: a world of gangsters, insurance fraud and contract killings. And while she must concetrate on saving the life of someone she has never met, it becomes clear that she is in danger of losing her own.
I had no need to worry about Indemnity Only ageing, I just needed to remember this is V.I, if anyone is never going to age gracefully then it is her!
This was brilliant to read again, and I really enjoyed this, echoing my first read way back when. Before we talk about anything else, we must discuss V.I. Warshawski is a strong, female lead. With a Polish father and Italian mother, she has grown up tough. She knows how to handle herself, is whip-smart, and is unwilling to take any rubbish from anyone. Most of all she has all the street smarts, which she uses to great effect on many of the characters of more dubious novels.
But she is never obnoxious, just strong and self-assured. She runs like a professional, enjoys her alcohol and fast food, and is more than a match for anyone stupid enough to dismiss her as 'just a girl'.
The novel reads like a real gumshoe novel, where instead of a Spencer Tracey character discussing the 'dames' we have a more modern version in V.I.
The plot is involving and intelligent, allowing Warshawski to use those smarts. We meet mob bosses, union firebrands and shady men who would think nothing of breaking a finger or two. We learn about insurance fraud and how the most ruthless can be the money men. Even towards the end, I found myself without a clue as to what had happened to the Thayer son.
I very much enjoyed Indemnity Only again, and am already thinking of picking up the second in the series. There is a decent film starring Kathleen Turner which is well worth a look. But if you like your heroines strong and an intelligent plot, then please pick up a copy of this book.