Review: Killing Orders by Sara Paretsky
V.I. Warshawsky is a successful female detective, a specialist in financial crime. When a Chicago Dominican priory needs money for a new roof, the brothers discover that five million dollars worth of stock certificates in their safe are worthless forgeries. Were they fakes when they were willed to the order or clever substitutes that cover a recent theft? The shadow of suspicion falls also on V.I. Warshawsky’s great-aunt Rosa who’s worked part-time for the priory as an accountant. The elderly lady summons her niece, asking to investigate and clean her name. The problem is that Rosa is V. I.’s least favourite family member, an aunt straight from hell who loves bullying Vic and nourishes a family grievance. Vic resents the command (because Rosa’s will is an order, nothing less) but she decides she must keep the word given to her mother, Gabriella, on her deathbed; she promised she would help aunt Rosa no matter what. Both Rosa and Gabriella came from Italy – it explains the strength of the familial obligation.
However, from the very beginning the whole investigation seems a bit strange. Not only after several days aunt Rosa, so panicky before, decides that she doesn’t want Vic sniffing around anymore but also the FBI is rather unwilling to help. The fact that the original certificates are found (undoubtedly by some miracle) only increases Warshawsky’s professional interest and her determination to solve the case. All hell breaks loose when, after very unpleasant anonymous calls a mysterious opponent tries to throw acid in Vic’s eyes and then burns down her apartment. Finally a friend who’s involved in the case is brutally murdered. Now, with or without Rosa’s consent, discovering the identity of the culprit becomes for Vic a matter of honour. Where to begin, though? Vatican seems a good place but the boss of Chicago mob might also know a thing or two…
I must admit the main character, V.I. Warshawsky, is undoubtedly a huge asset. It’s a rare creation – a convincing woman sleuth who is not simply an imitation man (although Raymond Chandler’s detective, Philip Marlowe, does come to mind when you think of it). Victoria Iphigenia (thus the initials) is a policeman’s daughter, a lawyer who became fed up with the criminal justice system while working as a public defender. Her character was build in a very careful way and I must admit the authoress didn’t overdo it – Vic is intelligent, without being a know-it-all, sexy without being vulgar, feminine but still carrying a gun. You would like to befriend her even though it might be a bit dangerous. You get involved in her story very quickly.
What’s more, the plot is interesting – we encounter lots of great little twists throughout the book. I liked them so much because they helped to develop the main character into a 3D being although I must admit I sometimes was more curious about Vic’s family than about the crime itself.
There’s a lot going on in this novel; so much in fact that it seemed as if Paretsky may have overexerted her heroine a bit. I had a feeling from time to time that if there were less action the book would be better. The Archbishop gets blown up in the end – isn’t this single fact a bit over the top? The princes of the Church rarely are killed in such a way…
One of more original criminal mysteries I’ve read – I enjoyed it very much! I certainly would like to read more of Mr Paretsky as V.I. is a treat!