Review: Body Work, by Sara Paretsky

Body Work
Body Work
Sara Paretsky
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Summary (from Publishers Weekly):
Paretsky’s superb 14th novel featuring PI V.I. Warshawski (after Hardball) delves into Chicago’s avant-garde art scene. At the trendy Club Gouge, where Warshawski is keeping an eye on Petra, a young cousin who caused trouble in the previous book, performance artist Karen Buckley (aka the Body Artist) invites members of the audience to step on stage to paint her nude body. The intricate design that one woman paints on Karen’s back provokes a violent outburst from Chad Vishneski, a troubled Iraqi war veteran. When two nights later, someone shoots the woman who upset Chad outside the club, Chad is the logical murder suspect. Hired by Chad’s estranged parents to clear his name, Warshawski straddles a minefield that reaches from the Windy City’s neighborhoods to the Gulf War battlefields. Scenes with her aging neighbor and a new love interest give a much needed balance to the serious plot. This strong outing shows why the tough, fiercely independent, dog-loving private detective continues to survive.

I’ve been a fan of private investigator V. I. “Vic” Warshawski ever since my mother and I discovered her at the San Jose Public Library on one of the ritual Saturday trips we used to make. Books, coffee, a “little something” in honor of my grandmother, and then back home. Perfect mother-daughter weekends. In any case, I’ve now read more of Vic’s adventures than my mother has, simply because she lives in a place where English-language fiction is difficult to obtain.

Body Work, the most recent of author Sara Paretsky’s novels about the fictional female detectiv,e is one of the most satisfying novels I’ve read in a long while. It had everything from Vic using her picklocks to enter a crime scene (evidently they weren’t Kwikset locks) to Vic babysitting her pesty younger cousin Petra, to Vic sharing meals with her downstairs neighbor/adopted family member Mr. Contreras, to Vic getting brutally beaten while on the job.

Even better, Body Work also has an interesting plot that involves edgy performance art, the blogosphere, the Gulf war, corporate politics, unrequited love, illegal drug running, and international money laundering, and it shows that Ms. Warshawski is comfortable working with 21st century technology even though she has a special affection for old-world pleasures like a proper cappuccino, a soaring Italian aria, and a steaming hot bubble bath at the end of a hard day’s detecting.

And yet, Paretsky gave us even more: she gave us Jake, the classical bass player who is not only Vic’s neighbor, but also her current lover, and one who – we hope – will stick around for another book, even if he is squeamish about the sight of blood – something to be concerned about when you’re close to Victoria Warshawski.

Review: Driftwood Lane, by Denise Hunter

Driftwood Lane
Driftwood Lane
Denise Hunter
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Summary (from Amazon):
Meridith can handle anything: guardianship of three distant siblings, a dilapidated Bed-and-Breakfast, even an ever-present handyman who’s dismantling more than her fireplace–or can she?

When the death of Meridith’s estranged father leaves her with custody of three siblings she’s never met, she reluctantly goes to Nantucket to care for them–but only until their uncle returns from his trip. Little does she know, the uncle is already there under the guise of her friendly handyman, with plans of his own.

Will the love that grows between them be strong enough to overcome the secrets that brought them both to Driftwood Lane?

After a summer spent devouring everything Elin Hilderbrand had ever written, you might think I’d had enough of novels set on Nantucket Island, but as a 3rd generation beach baby, I can never get enough of seaside settings. For me, reading about the beach is like a wannabe modern nomad comparing rates on rv loans: I can never get enough of them.

Denise Hunter’s Driftwood Lane is, in many ways, the perfect seaside romance. 25-year-old Meridith shows great strength and great love in giving up her life in St. Louis to act as caretaker for the three half-siblings she’s never met – or even heard of – until the day she’s informed that her father and his second wife have died in a tragic accident. The bed-and-breakfast where the kids live, Summer Place, while desperate for some TLC, is on the beach, and perfectly represents those too-cute beachfront homes I’ve always wanted to rent, and never have.

Then there’s Jake, the dashing handyman/love interest. He’s fiery and passionate, a bit mysterious (at least to Meridith), and kind of a rogue, but also tender, and his scenes with Meridith are full of hilarious bickering, misunderstandings, and a requisite number of warm, friendly, almost tingly moments.

The children, Noelle, Max and Ben, are well-written, also, with the right blend of brattiness covering their fear, but a sweetness to them as well.

I enjoyed the quick pace of Driftwood Lane. I’m generally a fast reader, anyway, but this book moved along at a really nice clip, and though I had moments where I found certain plot points a bit implausible, I merely reminded myself that this is a romance novel, and some level of willful suspension of disbelief was therefore required.

It should be noted that though this book is categorized as Christian fiction, and references God in the back-cover blurb, there was nothing in it that felt overwhelmingly religious, and nothing at ALL preachy. A few characters mentioned church, or leaving things up to God, but, speaking as someone who isn’t particularly Christian, I didn’t find any of it off-putting, though non-religious readers will want to avoid the Reading Group Guide at the end.

All in all, I thought Driftwood Lane was an entertaining, escapist read, and while I have not read any of Denise Hunter’s previous three Nantucket novels, I wouldn’t object to doing so in the future.

Goes well with strong tea and oatmeal-raisin cookies