4 stars out of 5
When I read that one of my favorite authors, Sara Paretsky, had a new installment of her series featuring private investigator V.I. Warshawski (Brush Back, released in July), I rushed over to Amazon.com to learn more. When I got there, a more unpleasant reality hit: How the bleep did I miss reading not just one, but the previous three?
No satisfactory answer turned up, but not wanting to tackle the most recent entry without reading what came before sent me hustling to get my hands on those, starting with this one (the 14th). I was a little worried that I wouldn't remember much, but almost immediately a couple of characters from past books -- notably Warshawski's elderly and very protective neighbor Mr. Contreras -- made an appearance and eased my mind.
One I don't recall is her niece, Petra - and quite honestly, she turned out to be so annoying that I'm hoping she'll find something to occupy her time halfway around the world and never be heard from again. The argumentative, petulant young wench added nothing of substance to the story that I could find. That, and a few more errors that I'd expect from a writer of this caliber (a woman frightened out of her wits described as having "blenched," for instance) are the primary reasons for knocking my expected 5-star rating down by one.
Do not, however, take that to mean I didn't enjoy this book; as long as I skimmed over Petra's parts (thus keeping in check my intense desire to smack her upside the head), I found it really hard to put down and finished it in record time.
Actually, it was Petra who got the whole thing rolling (though not in a good way); her aunt was trying to keep tabs on her after she took a job at an artsy, sleezy club in Chicago. A woman known as the Body Artist was performing; totally unclothed except for a tiny G-string and layers of paint, her "art" is inviting audience members to paint her body. After watching a young woman paint a winged design, Iraq war vet Chad Vishneski goes ballistic. A couple of days later, the young woman is murdered, dying in Warshawski's arms, in fact - and the vet, who is suffering from PTSD, is the prime suspect.
His parents believe he's innocent, as parents are wont to believe, and they ask Warshawski to clear his name. Since there are a number of inconsistencies and unanswered questions (what, for instance, do the strings of numbers mean that one rather nasty audience member regularly paints on the Body Artist's back?), Warshawski agrees to take the case. Almost immediately, the plot thickens; the Body Artist pulls a disappearing act, it comes to light that the young vet brought back secrets with him from Iraq that some very bad people don't want revealed and Warshawski finds her own life in danger.
Body Work by Sara Paretsky (Putnam Adult, August 2010); 464 pp.