INDEMNITY ONLY by Sara Paretsky


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In Lamaar Ransome, Private Eye (p. 462), David Galloway played the idea of a super-hard-boiled female shamus strictly for laughs--not very successfully. Here, however, with narrator-sleuth V. I. (Victoria) Warshawski of Chicago, first-novelist Paretsky is doing the same thing with an absolutely straight face; and the result, if rather flat, is a sturdily readable diversion that's no more implausible than any other hard-boiled fare. The case begins when V.I. is hired by banker John Thayer (or so he identifies himself) to locate Anita, the missing girlfriend of his son Peter. But when V.I. then promptly discovers Peter's murdered body, the plot thickens: her client, it seems, was really Anita's father, a shady labor leader; and Peter was working for the Ajax Insurance Co.--which may have had illegal connections with the labor leader and with some mobster types (who rough V.I. up). Then Peter's father (the real John Thayer) is also murdered, so the insurance/bank/union/mob tangle gets more complicated. And before V.I. exposes a convincing insurance scare, she finds the missing Anita and plays godmother to Peter Thayer's unhappy teenage sister. Predictably plotted, but written with agreeable plainness--and, except for V.I.'s affair with a suspect (is he just another "pretty face"?), the sex-role shift is handled with just the right sort of un-cute, matter-of-fact credibility.
Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1981
ISBN: 0440210690
Page count: 327pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1981

Kirkus Interview
Sara Paretsky
author of BRUSH BACK
July 28, 2015

No one would accuse V. I. Warshawski of backing down from a fight, but there are a few she’d be happy to avoid. High on that list is tangling with Chicago political bosses. Yet that’s precisely what she ends up doing when she responds to Frank Guzzo’s plea for help in Brush Back, the latest thriller from bestselling author Sara Paretsky. For six stormy weeks back in high school, V.I. thought she was in love with Frank. He broke up with her, she went off to college, he started driving trucks for Bagby Haulage. She forgot about him until the day his mother was convicted of bludgeoning his kid sister, Annie, to death. Stella Guzzo was an angry, uncooperative prisoner and did a full 25 years for her daughter’s murder. Newly released from prison, Stella is looking for exoneration, so Frank asks V.I. for help. “Paretsky, who plots more conscientiously than anyone else in the field, digs deep, then deeper, into past and present until all is revealed,” our reviewer writes. View video >


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