Sunday, June 15, 2014

Body Work

I guess it's easy to take long-running series for granted.  I used to buy Sara Paretsky's books (and Sue Grafton's and Marcia Muller's) the moment they were available in paperback.  I've never put them on probation and always look forward to their books, but a combination of a busier life, more series to read, and a drift towards non-fiction has led me to fall behind.  Body Work came out in paperback three years ago, but I bought it at The Book Corner this past March.  Paretsky's previous book, Hardball, was her best in at least a decade so I'm surprised it took me so long.

Hardball wasn't linear, and neither is Body Work, although the timeline isn't quite as twisted.  Vic is at the hot new club where a performance artist who invites audience members to draw on her naked body is the usual headliner.  Most nights, a young woman paints the embellished face of another woman on the Body Artist's back, until one night she draws the attention and ire of a young veteran.  After the performance, someone shoots the young woman and she dies in Vic's arms.  The veteran, a young man who enlisted out of patriotism and left the army with PTSD, is a natural suspect and he's found near death from an overdose.  Did he kill her - and why?  Or was he framed?

Well, it would be a very short novel if Chad Vishneski were the killer, so it's not a spoiler to say he's just another victim.  Chad's parents hire Vic to find out if he did kill Nadia Guzman, and she begins to investigate both the victim and the accused.  The link between the two turns out to be Nadia's older sister Alexandra, a civilian contractor who'd died in Iraq and whose time in Baghdad overlapped with Chad's.  This leads Vic to a mix of corporate corruption, money laundering, and drug dealing which eventually ends in the Body Artist's final performance.

Paretsky has put perhaps a bit too much plot into this installment, but she ties it up well.  She's also brought back Vic's cousin Petra, who again acts as the catalyst for Vic's involvement in the case but is otherwise a bit of an annoying brat.  It's a better-than-average installment in a good series, but maybe a bit of a letdown after Hardball.

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