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A-Body WorkSara Paretsky is best known for her award-winning V. I. Warshawski novels featuring the eponymous Chicago-based private detective, now middle-aged but as smart-mouthed and compassionate as ever. Body Work is the 14th in the series, after Hardball (2009). Reviewed: the stand-alone novel Bleeding Kansas (3 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2008).

The Story: V. I. Warshawski ("Vic" to her friends), frequenting a seedy Chicago nightclub, watches as a woman known as the Body Artist invites the audience to paint on her naked body. Chad Vishneski, an Iraq War vet with PTSD, becomes upset at one young woman's artistry, and a few nights later, the woman is murdered outside the bar. The police target Chad, who is later found unconscious with the murder weapon in hand. Warshawski, however, is not so sure of Chad's guilt, and his parents hire her to prove his innocence. But as her investigation deepens, Warshawski finds herself caught in a chain of events leading to some very dark truths about the Iraq War.
Putnam. 464 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 9780399156748

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Body Work is as fine a work as ever in the Warshawski canon. ... Let's hope she still has a few good rough-and-tumble cases in her. I certainly don't see her turning into an American version of Miss Marple." Brigitte Frase

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"Most significant is Ms. Paretsky's handling of 21st-century political and social issues. ... There are no easy endings." Robert Croan

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Much of [the dense and weighty plot is] uneasily integrated into the story. Still, Paretsky is careful and conscientious, always giving good value, and even her subplots are loaded with provocative ideas." Marilyn Stasio

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The pleasures of this story are in the details and characters--the wry observations about greed and sexism, the gripping misery of the Chicago winter, the flaky cousin who won't stay out of trouble, and the loving loyalty of Warshawski's neighbor, Mr. Contreras. Warshawski presents an irresistible combination--a cranky, vulnerable woman with a messy life, but a superhuman willingness to put herself in harm's way for the sake of justice." Mary Wisniewski

Critical Summary

V. I. Warshawski is "like Spider-Man with a P.I. License," claimed the Chicago Sun-Times of its home-based heroine, and critics agreed that, despite her age, Warshawski is no Miss Marple. Reviewers had little but praise for this newest entry in the popular series; of particular note is Paretsky's deep exploration of social and political issues--notably, homophobia; domestic violence; and the misdeeds spawned by the Iraq War. However, critics diverged in their opinion of these thematic strands. The Los Angeles Times called the plotting "ingenious," while the New York Times Book Review described it as "bloated." For readers interested in a complex, multistrand story, Body Work is another thoughtful, timely entry in the series.