Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky

Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve I always feel like watching suspenseful or action movies. I stumbled across the excellent 1992 Kathleen Turner film, V.I. Warshawski, and then went in hunt of the book series that inspired the film.


Meeting an anonymous client late on a sizzling summer night is asking for trouble. But trouble is Chicago private eye V.I. Warshawski’s specialty. Her client says he’s the prominent banker, John Thayer. Turns out he’s not. He says his son’s girlfriend, Anita Hill, is missing. Turns out that’s not her real name. V.I.’s search turns up someone soon enough — the real John Thayer’s son, and he’s dead. Who’s V.I.’s client? Why has she been set up and sent out on a wild-goose chase? By the time she’s got it figured, things are hotter — and deadlier — than Chicago in July. V.I.’s in a desperate race against time. At stake: a young woman’s life. from Goodreads.


I’m just going to say that, if you love Chicago, the best parts of this book are the look at the city during the early 1990’s. I have lived in Chicago three different times with life taking me away and bringing me back. Once, I left and swore to never come back. This time, I hope to stay. And, like all optimists, with that permanence in mind, I have taken to loving everything about Chicago. Vic takes you all around the Windy City and drops beautiful little tidbits of familiarity that make you say, “I know that intersection!” If you hate Chicago, or you have lived here long enough to understand the struggles of city living, Vic does an equally delightful job of highlighting the reality of life in the city. Why is traffic on Belmont always so bad?!? Will they never fix the potholes on Lake Shore DuSable Drive?!?

As a detective, Vic is top notch. She is hard as nails, understands how to run the investigation instinctively, and relies on her own resourcefulness to see the job through. She is as hard boiled as they come. If I wasn’t an attorney, I might not buy the defense-attorney-to-private-detective but I know far more recovering attorneys than happy ones. Admittedly, the $7,000 a year price tag for University of Chicago got a laugh out of me.

The story itself is a wild ride. Her sleuthing takes her from the tip-top of what money can buy in Winnetka, Illinois all the way down. Along the way, Vic gets punched and kicked, fights back, and never stops.

The best part of the story is the lack of email, cells phones, and technology. People waiting for others at diners and going around to their house – without calling first! – is a world that I only vaguely remember. For Vic, the real benefit comes from being able to flex who she is and why she is there without the biggest tattle mouth in history, the internet, ratting her out.

This series is a little darker than Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum but I loved the gritty reality of being a woman detective. Only time will tell if I actually pick up more but I won’t regret the step back in time I took with V.I.

Tell me, please! Are there books set in your city or town that you love?


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