Review: Guardian Angel by Sara Paretsky
In the 7th installment of the Chicago’s PI V. I. Warshawski’s novels, Vic becomes involved more with her Racine street neighborhood. The area undergoes gentrification of a kind and some unpleasant yuppies have moved in. New neighbours not only renovate their houses and trim their lawns, they are also complaining about the old residents and positively harassing an elderly lady, a Mrs. Frizell, who owns more dogs than she could take care of. When she falls in her bathroom and is taken to the hospital in a very bad state the friendly Mr. and Mrs. Pichea obtain the guardianship over her in record time and put down all her dogs immediately afterwards. Why were they in such a hurry? What do they want to find in her dilapidated, filthy house? As Vic’s and Mr Contreras’s dog, Peppy, got pregnant by one of Mrs. Frizell’s dogs, Vic decides she is responsible for Mrs. Frizell’s fate and tries to get a closer look at these suspicious activities.
In the meantime an old friend and colleague of Mr. Contreras, Mitch Kruger, is in trouble and then missing. Before the disappearance he often boasted about becoming rich any time soon. When his body turns up in the morgue Mr. Contreras is devastated. Allegedly his friend was found on the bank of a sanitation canal flowing through his old workplace, Diamond Head. The police are sure it was simply a result of an ill-fated accident – Mr. Kruger liked drinking a bit too much. They fail to persuade Mr. Contreras, though, who wants Vic to investigate – he doesn’t believe his old buddy was stupid enough to stroll drunken along the well-known, dangerous waterfront, fall into water and drown. What was he doing on the premises anyway? Getting any info in this case will prove to be extremely difficult as people in high places are involved and they don’t want anything to leak out – an action indicating that there’s plenty of illicit money involved.
Like any Warshawski story, this one is a page-turner. I had a lot of fun stepping back to the times before omnipresent cell-phones, when computers had a blinking cursor or a menu – no Windows – and the main lead can still use her Olivetti (if you don’t recognize the brand name it was a typewriter, very popular and rather sturdy) The disgust at corporate shenanigans and rip-offs can resonate today and, I suppose, any time. I also enjoyed finding out more about Vic’s ex-husband and how they had split up. Peppy the golden retriever had puppies btw!
I admit – the plot was a bit different and less schematic here; still, Vic, as usual, supports an underdog’s case, endangers her life for a pittance and whines a lot because life is not exactly fair and she can’t buy a pair of new running shoes. At least in this installment she didn’t forget about her paying clients and we could even glimpse her elegantly dressed in the company of upscale people for a change. More such fragments and I would like the novel better.
Well, perhaps it is true that most detective stories, if boiled down to the bone, are very schematic tales of crimes and each and every one of them is alike. Good writers, though, know how to stretch a simple story into a few hundred pages without losing readers’ patience. Agatha Christie is, in my humble opinion, the master of the art. Most of her stories are simple crimes committed by ordinary people. However, the way she unfolds the plots and develops the characters differs and it is so captivating that I turn page after page with great anticipation of the final conclusion and I eagerly read one book after another, although of course I know well what roughly it will be about. I am sorry but I can’t tell the same about Ms. Paretsky’s books.
The book wasn’t bad but also nothing outstanding – still too formulaic to keep me truly riveted although I did enjoy some parts of it very much.