Fiction: “Killing Orders” by Sara Paretsky

killing ordersI am giving myself ninety minutes to write this review, and then I should do my homework (ugh) for my leadership training class tomorrow (double ugh), but I’m gonna give you a heads-up right now: I probably won’t.

I can’t remember if I packed this book as a backup to A Wrinkle In Time when I took my ill-fated (in terms of transportation debacles, not company) Washington, D.C. trip last September. As you will see (I’d say “shortly”, but y’all know how I roll on this here blog by now; ain’t nothing “short” about it), I ended up reading a romance novel I purchased at My Dear Friend Sarah’s (former?) place of work instead. And I can’t really remember the order of when I read this versus A Wrinkle In Time, the upcoming Pirate Bride, and the even-further-upcoming North and South, because around that time last year I got really bad with dates. My GoodReads 2016 shelf does not match my Book (Excel) Spreadsheet, things are out of order, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!

But in the end, it doesn’t matter! Because I read it anyway, and time is a flat circle.

This is the third book in the V.I. Warshawski series. In this title, Vic is hired – then fired – by her awful Aunt Rosa, who hates Vic and Vic’s mother. Vic idolizes her mother, Gabriella, and while Vic doesn’t want to get back into Rosa’s good graces, she does want to find the truth about why Aunt Rosa was fired from her Treasurer position at her (Rosa’s) church. Turns out some securities the monks (they’re Dominican brothers, so friars? monks? it doesn’t matter) wanted to cash in so they could expand the priory (?) (I’m not looking this stuff up, you know that by now) were forgeries, and the only logical suspect is Rosa. The monks agree that if Vic can clear Rosa’s name, then Rosa would be hired again and all would be well.

So, out of familial duty, Vic looks into it – until Rosa gets all butt-hurt about something and fires her. But Vic then hires herself – or maybe her boyfriend, Roger, hires her because the securities are related to his firm? I don’t know. Point is, she investigates. And crosses paths with the Catholic Church, and the Mafia. Because this takes place in Chicago, don’t ya know.

Vic remains a tough broad – drinking Scotch, ignoring domestic duties like cleaning and washing dishes, wearing clothes she tossed on the floor the night before – aside from the Scotch part, I see a lot of myself in Vic. (For me, it’d be gin.) She finds herself, for the first time in the series, able to let her guard down around somebody – in this instance, Roger. Though when it looks like she’s definitely on a Mob hit list, she pulls away from Roger in order to keep him safe from danger.

At one point, Vic reaches out to her friend, Lotty, and asks to get in touch with Lotty’s uncle, a former forger. The uncle agrees to make additional copies of the securities, which results with the uncle landing in the hospital, and Lotty quite upset with Vic. Vic is absolutely remorseful for her role in the caper, and at the end of the book, she and Lotty have reconciled.

What else … uh, not much. In the end, this book is a fairly rote “female detective” novel – single gal who does tough things like drink Scotch and jog unwillingly takes on big corporations or evil entities to fight for the little guy. You see this (slightly) with Kinsey Millhone in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series, although Kinsey’s drink of choice is cheap white wine. While I have no evidence whatsoever to back this up, I feel the category of “female detective novel” has been dominated by cozy-type mysteries, so I appreciate Kinsey and Vic remaining strong and tough as nails. I should also point out, though, that this book was first published in 1986, so some of the attitudes within the book are directly tied to events and attitudes occurring thirty years ago.

I do like the V.I. Warshawski series – it’s just taking me a long time to get through a series lately. It’s taking me a long time to do anything, lately. But as I was able to get this published within my ninety minute timeframe, I’m going to … take a couple of Melatonin and go to bed, I guess.

When did I become an adult?

Grade for Killing Orders: 2.5 stars

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Fiction: “Deadlock” by Sara Paretsky

DeadlockIt’s funny – I returned this book to the library a week ago and almost completely forgot that I needed to review it.  My bad, guys; sorry.

(Also – and I’m super excited about this – I’m in the process of transferring pictures from my phone to my computer, and because the phone is a piece of shit [I regularly call it SNASA, because it is stupid enough to believe in a Secret NASA] I can’t actually transfer the pics via a USB cord, so I have to email them to myself and then download then and extract the files and guys, I am getting a new phone today and the victory tastes like peaches.  But the process to that victory may make this review even more disjointed than usual.  So, caveat lector.)

(OH SHIT LECTER YOU GUYS HANNIBAL THIS YEAR IS SO AWESOME I CAN’T EVEN –)

ANYWAY.  Deadlock is the second novel in Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski novel series, and also one of the few titles I didn’t own.  Seriously, I have been looking to buy this novel for at least two years.  (Wait, when did I read Indemnity Only?  Holy shit, almost four years ago??  I suck)  So luckily, I was able to find a copy at the library and eventually, I’ll buy it to complete my collection, but at least I was able to read it now.

Looking back over my review of Indemnity Only, I realize that I never actually told you about V.I. Warshawski.  She is a former lawyer-turned-private detective, and she usually investigates white-collar crimes – embezzlement, insurance fraud, etc.  In Deadlock, V.I. (Vic to her friends) investigates the death of her beloved cousin, former Chicago Blackhawk player Boom-Boom Warshawski (yes, he is referred to throughout the novel as Boom-Boom).  Following an injury, Boom-Boom retires from hockey and tries to find work in the private sector.  He eventually finds work in the office of Eudora Grain, and dies when he falls off a slippery pier and drowns under a shipping barge.  V.I. received a message from Boom-Boom prior to his death, but she had been out of town on another case and wasn’t able to respond.  Oh, and this takes place in the early 80s (as it was written in 1981, I believe) so there aren’t cell phones or text messages.

V.I. is convinced where no one else in her family is that Boom Boom’s death was not an accident.  So she takes on her cousin as a client and investigates the circumstances surrounding his death.  What she finds involves a ballerina with ulterior motives, a rivalry between two CEOs, and an explosion in a canal.  This is the part where I’d go into more depth, but a) I’m trying to not ruin things ahead of time for people (I can be Harry Burns myself, but I don’t want to be Harry Burns to other people), and b) I returned the book to the library a week ago, so I can’t exactly look things up again.

Overall, the story moves quickly, and you’re kept guessing as to whodunit.  As I mentioned before, V.I. is a tough broad who’s unafraid to get her hands dirty.  She has a strong sense of justice and honor, and can tell when people are lying to her.  In addition, she loves high-end Scotch and her apartment is just as cluttered as mine.

I feel somewhat bad that it’s taken me four freakin’ years to read this next novel in the series, but I took a glance at my bookshelf and it appears that this was the only title I’ve been missing, so be prepared to see more of this author and series.  I know I’m not doing the character of V.I. justice in my reviews, but she’s a great detective, and I really enjoy reading this series.

Grade for Deadlock: 3 stars

Fiction: “Indemnity Only” by Sara Paretsky

I returned from a whirlwind trip to Washington D.C. early this morning. (The Rally to Restore Sanity was beyond freaking amazing. I have a feeling it will be my generation’s Woodstock [or, rather, the part of my generation that is as media-savvy as myself].) As is usual for me, I brought a couple of books with me, intending to finish Indemnity Only on the leg from Boston to LaGuardia, and to both start and finish A Stillness in Bethlehem (the next Gregor Demarkian novel) on the rest of the flight(s).

What I did not intend was to spend the forty minutes from Boston to LaGuardia sleeping — although I don’t know why I’m surprised, it’s not like I had a lot of sleep the night before — and the flight from LaGuardia to Baltimore was spent on the second-tiniest plane in the entire US Airways flotilla (it had exposed propellers, you guys! Exposed! propellers!). I spent the entire forty minutes of that flight breathing deeply through my nose, trying to keep down the only and worst case of airsickness I’ve ever had.

So. I didn’t read a lot. I did manage to finish Indemnity Only on the flight from Baltimore to Charlotte, NC (don’t ask — did you see the people on the Mall? It took us an hour to walk a block! It’s no wonder we missed our flight and had to take a slight detour through North Carolina).

But you don’t want to hear about my experiences over the past weekend (or, as my roommate and I have taken to calling it, Harold and Kumar: Escape from the Sanity Rally). You probably want to know if you should read this book.

Uh, yeah. Sure, I guess. If you like mysteries and hard-boiled female detectives, then this should be right up your alley. Frankly, your alley looks a little scary, but hey, if you’ve got a broad like V.I. Warshawski on your side, you’ll be fine getting through it.

V.I. Warshawksi is a private detective operating out of Chicago. Her father was a member of the Chicago Police Department; her mother was an Italian singer with aspirations of the opera for her daughter. V.I. (the V is for Victoria; her friends call her Vic) followed her father’s footsteps instead. Indemnity Only is the first in the V.I. series.

This story begins when Vic (what? I’m a friend) is visited by someone claiming to be John Thayer, president of the Fort Dearborn Bank & Trust. His son, Peter, is missing, as well as Peter’s girlfriend, Anita Hill. Turns out that the man who visited her wasn’t John Thayer, it’s Andrew McGraw, leader of the local Knifegrinder’s Union. And the missing girlfriend isn’t Anita Hill, it’s Anita McGraw, Andrew’s daughter. Oh, and Peter’s not missing; he’s dead. The case turns out to be more than simply murder (and aren’t all mysteries?): in this case, it’s about indemnity payments and insurance fraud.

At almost every turn, Vic gets told by various people to drop the case: from Bobby Mallory, a Sergeant on the force who was a good friend of her dad and who doesn’t like seeing Vicki in trouble; from Earl Smiessen, a mob boss who roughs her up but good; and from McGraw himself. But through it all, Vic is tenacious, tough, and resilient, and she doesn’t let a little thing like negativity or an entire force of people telling her to quit to make her quit.

While Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone predates Ms. Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski by a couple of years, I almost think Vic is a bit tougher. I can’t explain why, but she seems harder. Whether it’s her need to go by her initials so she’s seen as more masculine by potential clients, or the fact that she drinks Scotch instead of wine, or … I don’t know. Both women are tough, but it seems Vic has just a bit of an edge. Not that Kinsey can’t hold her own …

Oh, never mind. Both women are equally tough and resilient. Both women are awesome.

Grade for Indemnity Only: 2.5 stars