I can only pick up any book by brilliant crime writer Sara Paretsky if I have a bit of time on my hands, because I can never bear to put it down until I’m done. And this one is no exceotion.

brush backFirst, a confession. V.I.Warshawski is, I think, my favourite private detective in print. She’s the original, sassy, kick-ass woman in this field and, unlike most of them, she’s lost none of her power despite the fact this is the 17th in the series.

Once again, Vic has to go back to her roots in the south side of Chicago, back to the difficult, troubled, violent community she did her best to escape from.

An ex-flame asks for her help to exonerate his mother of a crime she served 25 years in jail for – the murder of her daughter, Annie. Vic is reluctant, but accepts the challenge, getting drawn into a vicious mess of lies and old secrets in her old neighbourhood that threatens to drag in and tarnish some of the most loved people from her past.

As usual Vic ends up bruised and battered, but always gives at least as good as she gets. She’s never easily intimidated and never gives up. Also as usual, her elderly neighbour Mr Contreras gets involved, her dogs are on hand to help as necessary, Lotty is there to patch up the bruises, and there is a lively amount of spirited and funny dialogue.

For me, Vic and her friends come with a bonus – the city of Chicago itself, which Paretsky brings beautifully to life, both present and past, along with all its murky and corrupt politics. Confession two: I lived in Chicago for four years and Vic travels a lot around the area where I lived, and I find keeping track of my old neighbourhood a real bonus.

But it’s always in the end down to the stories Paretsky tells, which grab hold of you from the very first page. The plots tend to the convoluted, sure, but there’s always something going on and I always feel in very safe hands, both with Pareksky and Warshawski. Though I have to say, I’m often not entirely sure what the title has to do with the story.

Book published in July 2015