Racine Avenue is going upscale — bad news for hand-to-mouth residents like V. I. Warshawski. As tax bills skyrocket, newcomers pressure old inhabitants into fixing up their homes or moving out. To the yuppies on the block the worst eyesore belongs to old Hattie Frizell, whose yard is “returning to native prairie, complete with hubcaps.” Their block club wants her and her five dogs gone.V. I. and Hattie have a relationship of sorts: one of those five dogs gave V. I.’s dog Peppy an unwelcome litter.
When Hattie slips in her bath and is rushed unconscious to the hospital, V. I. feels compelled to get involved. But neighboring lawyer Todd Pichea and his wife, Chrissie, act swiftly to get the courts to make them Hattie’s legal guardians. V. I. returns from a business trip to find they’ve put the old woman’s dogs to sleep. Furious, V. I. starts poking around in the Picheas’ affairs, hoping to turn up something scandalous enough to make them lose their guardianship. Hattie isn’t the detective’s only worry. When her downstairs neighbor’s oldest friend disappears, Mr. Contreras persuades V. I. to investigate. As she probes both problems, V. I. uncovers a scandal linking one of Chicago’s oldest industrial families to union fraud and a politically connected bank.
Her investigation takes her into the depths of the steamy Sanitary Canal and brings her eyeball-to-eyeball with her ex-husband, Dick Yarborough. When her dear friend Lotty Herschel and her own lawyer turn against her, V. I. is left alone to struggle with the most serious case of her career.
©1992 Sara Paretsky (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This is the seventh book in the Warshawski series and was published in 1992. I noticed there were no cell phones, Vic was always looking for a pay phone, and I also noted she was using an Olivetti typewriter. Vic did say in the story she needed to learn how to use a computer and obtain one, she said this during a break-in, while trying to figure out how to get into the companies computer for information.
In this story Mr. Contaras, an elderly neighbor of V. I. Warshawski, has an alcoholic friend Mitch Kruger. They both retired from Diamond Head Machine Company at the same time approximately 12 years ago. Kruger bragged he is going to be rich from Diamond Head but then he is then found dead in a sanitary canal. A neighbor down the street Mrs. Frizell was found to have traded her CD investment for junk bonds in Diamond Head. Vic is on the case with numerous threatening confrontations, middle of the night file searches, car chases and crashes, another murder, a nasty beating of her friend Dr. Lotty Hershel and the appearance in the case of Vic’s ex-husband. We have a scandal of one of Chicago oldest industrial families, union fraud, and a politically connected bank. Suspense rarely flags in a Paretsky novel.
Susan Ericksen does a great job of portraying the flippant, mean mouth style of Warshawski. Some of the other readers in this series could not pull it off as well as Ericksen. Kathy Bates was the other reader than did a good job with Warshawski. If you enjoy the Paretsky series you will enjoy this book. Even though each book stands alone I do wish I had read this series in order so I could see the development of the various characters.
I lived in downtown Chicago for many years and that is one of the appeals of this series for me. But you do not have to know the neighborhoods and businesses to enjoy this addition to a well written series. Plus dogs play a leading role and that is always good!
As always, VI is a bit too independent for her own good and typically gets beat up, shot at and stalked by the bad guys. The "bad guys" are the greedy corporate-types lead by her ex. No question whose side VI is on, but I found it somewhat disturbing that the executives, lawyers and bankers are all evil, money grubbers who do not mind a little blood on the cuffs of their hand tailored suits. While there are certainly plenty of power brokers with questionable ethics and a willingness to go too far, it was far-fetched to find that characteristic all but universal.
After VI finds herself on the wrong end of a truck, a crane and a massive spool of copper wire (let alone guns and lead pipes) all in one outing, she should have the common sense to take a little assistance from her friends in the blue uniforms, but alas she does not. Much to VI's chagrin, however, she is the not the only one to suffer for her impulsive and secretive behavior this time.
The denouement is not especially surprising and the ease in which she gathers some critical facts strains credulity. But the story carries the wonderful characters which are Paretsky's hallmark and the free-flowing action keeps the plot moving faster than the water in the Sanitary and Ship Canal.
Note that this book was written almost 25 years ago and some of the technology, race relations and gender expectations reflect the attitudes of the early 1990s.
The narrator does a good job with VI, Mr. Contreras and several of the other voices. She does however, fail to change tone and intonation when the speaker changes on many occasions and that was confusing to me. Some of her characters are so far off the board, they are simply funny, and others did not ring true to my ear.
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