Saturday, May 25, 2019

Sara Paretsky's Indemnity Only

Sara Paretsky's Indemnity Only (1982) is the first V. I. (Victoria or Vic) Warshawsky mystery. It, together with Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series, were the beginning of the modern female P.I. mystery movement. The series takes place in Chicago, and since I'm going to Chicago in a few days...

The setup is this: Warshawsky is hired to find somebody's daughter, except her client doesn't give his real name, and doesn't tell her the daughter's real name either. When she goes to follow the one lead she's given, she finds a dead body, clearly murdered by a pro. She figures she's been had. But not for long.

She ends up in the middle of an insurance fraud scheme, an unholy alliance of labor bosses, insurance executives, bankers, and the mob. (Well, it is Chicago we're talking about...we're only missing a politician or three...) Vic sorts out the mystery--its outlines are never much in doubt--its real and considerable suspense is in how she sorts the goons and gets the goods.

She compares herself twice to Lord Peter Wimsey, but the final scene is straight out of The Maltese Falcon.

Quite a lot of fun.

I usually think of Vic as a Southsider, and the backstory has her raised there, but she lives near Belmont and Halstead in Chicago on the north side--where I lived for two years in my twenties. And she's not much of a Southsider, because she's a Cubs fan.

Another entry for My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Challenge.

Silver. Why: Author from your country. (Your state, your city, even your major intersection.)



6 comments:

  1. I read this one (and the next, Bitter Medicine?) but then lost track of the series. Although I did watch the film. *giggles* Ahhhh, fun at the time, when it had been such a quintessentially male sector of publishing!

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    1. I was pretty committed to them for a while, partly because they were set in Chicago. But they are fun, as I was reminded reading this one!

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  2. Oh, wow, I really need to start reading Paretsky. I've read all of Sue Grafton's mysteries but for some reason I skipped V.I. Glad to hear that this was good AND set in Chicago .... another plus!

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    1. I read the first several Sue Grafton ones, but then fell off her series somehow. The first Kinsey Millhone was amazing, but as a series I liked Warshawski better.

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  3. I read all the VI books up to the one where she goes to Italy at the end which was pretty much the end of the series at that time though Paretsky has since written more.

    Definitely VI is more along the lines of hard-boiled crime fiction which sets her apart as a female protagonist from the cozy mystery sub genre which typically has female detectives.

    I have often toyed with re-reading the series. I can never remember the plot of mysteries typically anyway but I do remember that there was real growth in VI's character from book to book

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    1. I don't know that I'm committed to rereading the whole series (though I did pull the next one off the shelf.)

      There's a couple of the more recent ones I haven't read as well. I thought a few of them got a little too long, but they are generally a lot of fun.

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