Jerry's Reviews > Body Work

Body Work by Sara Paretsky
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's review
Sep 18, 2010

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Read from September 14 to 17, 2010

We've read every private eye V.I. Warshawski novel so far – and as usual, came away feeling a little ho hum. We typically enjoy this particular genre, and like many readers, wind up comparing Paretsky to Sue Grafton. It often seems like Paretsky’s publisher once said “Give us another Kinsey Millhone, but make her tougher.” And the funny thing is, that’s our problem with this series. The plots are OK, but we have a hard time warming up to the characters. V.I. herself even wonders about her style and quality of life in “Body Work”; her neighborly “helper” Mr. Contreras is a pain in the butt (unlike Kinsey’s landlord); her cousin Petra a first-rate brat (who V.I. barely tolerates herself) – which leaves just who to care about?

The premise of this one is fine – an unusual and titillating artist appears nude at a nightclub, then allows patrons to paint on her body, often adding to some elaborate pre-existing artwork (all temporary, not tattoos). When an audience member gets shot in an alley and dies in V.I.’s arms (she just happens to be nearby), she gets involved (as is her wont) and eventually gets a minor paying job to clear the veteran of the Iraq “war” the police arrested. But then things deteriorate when the cops virtually give up on a frame so obvious it’s almost silly, but V.I. roars all around Chicago (most of it during nearly impassable snow), chasing all manner of corporate crooks and their hired thugs. A connection to the dead girl’s sister, also killed earlier in Iraq, provides counterpoint to the case at hand, and as anticipated the two situations eventually coalesce. And so forth.

So, a decent story, with a reasonably interesting plot awaits; but it’s just hard to buy into these characters. We’ve often felt that if V.I. would use her head just a little more and give up on some of the hard-to-swallow tough girl around town stuff, and maybe alter her attitude toward life a little, we might have a heroine we would really care about. As it is, if she were a man, about the most significant thing we would say is “boys will be boys!” So you decide.

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