Indemnity Only - Sara Paretsky

Pretty early on in this book, my husband remarked that Kathleen Turner played the role of V.I. Warshawski in a movie of the same name. Even if I wasn't a fan of a couple of her film roles, anyone who's ever heard her voice will likely find it hard to forget. Needless to say, the voice in my head did its damnedest to replicate that distinctive husky allure with all of V.I.'s dialogue. I think that's why I liked the book a little more than maybe I should have.

 

V.I., let's call her Vic, her friends do, is a once-upon-a-time district attorney who became less than enchanted with the system. Putting her intelligence, wit and background to good use, she goes into private detecting - mostly insurance fraud and cheating spouses. That is, until a certain Union leader knocks at her door with a missing daughter. Vic gets into more than she bargained for (or is paid for) when her first interview turns out to be a dead man.

 

I'm no stranger to mysteries and detective stories and they tend to run along the same vein- a tough, smart, loner who gets in over their head with a doozy of a murder is usually what gives the story a pulse. In my experience, it's the side characters that give it heart. That's certainly the case here with Indemnity Only. From Vic's naive fling Ralph, to her resilient and steady clinic doctor and best pal, Lotty, and all friend and foe in between, Paretsky sketches characters that are interesting and realistic, veering mostly away from caricature. I say, if you can write a fourteen year old girl and not resort to annoying teenage stereotypes, you're doing pretty good. Then again, this book is from 1982. Maybe teenagers had more substance then. I kid, I kid.

 

Speaking of 1982. Though the story is old, I wasn't terribly hung up on how dated it was - about everything technologically has changed in the world around us, yet people somehow stay the same and the motivations of greed and guilt are still, unfortunately, ever present. Nothing really suffers on the age front though I can see how some references might fly over heads. I'm not going to say how many flew over mine, but I will proudly state that I was tickled to see Kolchak mentioned.

 

I see now that this series is in the double digits. I'm not running out finding the next book or anything, but I wouldn't pass it up if I came across it.