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.