Toxic Shock – Sara Paretsky – 8/10

“I felt a little prickling along the base of my neck, that primitive adrenaline jolt that lets you know you’re getting close to the saber-toothed tiger”

Sara Paretsky’s veteran private investigator, V. I. Warshawski, is summoned to her childhood suburbs in this family/industrial mystery, in which the kid next door wants Vic to find her father. Vic stumbles onto a industrial negligence cover-up, and as usual, is shortly on the trial of the bad guys…

As usual, there is a decent sized cast as Vic battles with the police, her client, a geriatric doctor and his battleaxe sister – Cleo is my favourite character in the whole book, I think – and a swathe of villains. Vic’s downstairs neighbour makes plenty of overprotective appearances, as always, and her friends Lotty and Max come back too. I can’t say there’s masses of character development of Vic herself, but Caroline is quite a riddle and it’s good to see her evolve; ditto the mayor’s son Art.

I didn’t see any of the plot thread resolutions coming, so that’s a big commendation. The various threads all tie up neatly, but it was good to see the different threads (Caroline’s paternity, the murder of a key character, the historical industrial relations issue, and the doctor’s past) being attended to in reasonably equal measures.

The writing is of a better quality than I had remembered Paretsky’s to be – she uses words like submoronic, pilfering, “exuberant philathropy” – it’s not Pulitzer-winning but it’s a pleasant surprise to see a crime writer stretch their vocabulary every now and again. The book was very easy to pick up again, despite the multiple plot threads.

One for Eighties nostalgics and private investigator fiction fans.

Additional info:
This was a personal copy, acquired through Bookmooch.
Publisher: Penguin, 320 pages (paperback)
Order this from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards giveaways.

4 thoughts on “Toxic Shock – Sara Paretsky – 8/10”

  1. I’ve been curious about Peretsky since PD James praised her in Talking About Detective Fiction, but this is the first time I’ve seen her blogged! Love that one of the secondary characters is a ‘battleaxe sister.’ 🙂

    1. Yeah I’ve read quite a few of the VI Warshawski books and they’re all good fun – a bit better written than Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series. If you want a Paretsky going cheap – my copy of Toxic Shock is now on Bookmooch (look on “About Me” for my link).

  2. A friend told me Warshawski’s the type of woman she’d like to be and that caught my eye because this friend is not usually someone who makes these kind of statements.

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