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31 January 2015 @ 05:19 pm
Body Work by Sara Paretsky  
In my late teens I devoured all the then available V. I. Warshawski books in quick succession. Wikipedia tells me that Sara Paretsky has been writing these novels since 1982 although there have been lean patches (especially in the 90s) when they did not appear very frequently. I certainly stopped reading them at some point under the impression they were no longer being written and then discovered a new one, to my surprise, a few years back. I've now lost track a little of which one's I have read and which I haven't, although this is the first I have read in a long time.

Much as I like the novels, I've always found VI a rather exhausting character. She simply will not stop, or rest, and once she takes against someone (and quite frequently when she hasn't) she is confrontational, unstoppable and rude. Reading this at a distance of a few years, it was interesting to note that the rest of VI's world moulds itself around her. The police, for instance, despite (the book implies because of) knowing her of old give her a pretty hard time even though, in general, she is reasonably careful to keep them in the loop and aware of what she is doing and why. At the same time as being difficult and confrontational with almost everyone she meets, she also lets herself get pushed around a lot by her clients and, in this book, by her niece Petra who I found brattish and irritating. Obviously, all this stops V. I. being in anyway a perfect person, and I suppose one's frustration with her is a sign of quite how engaging the writing is, and how likeable she actually is despite her manifest flaws.

The plot itself is suitably intricate and kept me turning the pages, although it ultimately hinges on the coincidence of two conspiracies happening to cross paths. I really like Paretsky's writing style, particularly her attention to the details of everything that V. I. sees and encounters. Her Chicago is very vivid and gives a much stronger sense of place than I normally get from detective fiction. I was also entertained by the way V. I. detection methods have been updated as the Internet has taken hold.

I'm torn between thinking I should look out the V. I. Warshawski novels I don't think I've read - it looks like there are at least two published since this one came out, and the titles of some of a couple of the previous ones don't ring any bells. But then I look at my to read pile and wonder slightly if she's worth the effort.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/139966.html.
lukadreaminglukadreaming on January 31st, 2015 06:02 pm (UTC)
The early books were very good, and inspired my Master's on feminist crime fic. I have more or less kept up with the series, but haven't finished the most recent one, and found the one before a tad disappointing. In the series' favour, she has VI ageing (which Sue Grafton doesn't with her main character), but elements do seem repetitive. I don't care for the niece either. And Lottie must be at least 180!
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on February 1st, 2015 10:09 am (UTC)
I gave up on Grafton somewhere around M. I seem to recall there was a note in that book saying that although she was writing one book a year, the books were set at three-monthly intervals (hence no Internet). At that point I think I just rolled my eyes and gave up. I never rated Grafton as highly as Paretsky anyway.

You're write about Lotty though, and more so about Max - wasn't Max supposed to have spent some time in a concentration camp as a child/teenager? That would have to put him in his 80s or 90s surely?
lukadreaminglukadreaming on February 1st, 2015 07:10 pm (UTC)
I gave up on Grafton around M or N as well. Writing them all in the same time period may have seemed a good idea at the time, but once computers and mobile phones came along, it simply looked daft. And the books became very formulaic.

Yes, I think Max was supposed to be older than Lottie. It's difficult to engage with the later books sometimes, as VI makes the same mistakes she made when she started out. And there's a limit to how many times you want to hear Mr Contreras giving her hell and chuntering about the dogs, or Lottie giving her the cold shoulder but still bailing her out. In a long-running series, you want characters to change and grow.
louisedennislouisedennis on February 2nd, 2015 11:23 am (UTC)
Actually another thing that slightly irritated me was that several people gave her a hard time (not just the police) and you did vaguely wonder what they expected her to do differently - none of them quite had the guts to say "just walk away" but that's what they seemed to be implying and it seemed... a bit odd.