Probably the best feature of this book is its protagonist, V. I. Warshawski; this, the first of a series, is also my first introduction to Sara Paretsky’s work and it’s easy to see that this private detective would be good for lots of future mileage. And the set-up is pretty good, lots of mystery, interesting puzzles taking shape right from the start. But then, things got a bit shaky in execution: quite a number of things that didn’t ring true, especially having to do with the teen-aged Jill and her family. And Lotty was also sloppily drawn. There were just way too many places where suspension of disbelief was stretched beyond the comfort zone. There were also a few editing errors; I’m usually prepared to forgive that, at least up to a point. Minor quibbles, all told.
But in the end, what I find hard to forgive is that this book is offered as a hard-boiled gumshoe tale in the classic noir style, and it simply doesn’t measure up to the standard established by Chandler and his ilk; not gritty enough in its language, scenarios, personalities and atmosphere. To top it off, the noir style also needs a dollop of dark comedy and that is missing in this book. So the book has to be judged against other late-20th-century crime novels, such as the work of David Hosp; regrettably, Paretsky is not in his league.
Meet the original gritty private eye, V. I. Warshawski, in her favored city of Chicago.
Multitudinous story-strings make for a convoluted plot though you can skim over tinny parts to get to protagonist's character development. Rough in parts /okay in others. Uneven, boring.
In a Note to the edition that I read, Paretsky wrote that some publishers rejected this book because it was too talky and had wooden characters. I completely agree. I found the protagonist to be loquacious, did not empathize with a single character, and thought the plot tedious. Maybe Paretsky has learned some lessons since this book and her other novels are better, but I do not intend to take the time to find out.
The first V.I Warshawski mystery and a good one that made me a fan.
As you might expect from a first novel, it has some weaknesses. But it is still an entertaining read and essential for any V.I. fan.
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