TOTAL RECALL

Sara Paretsky, Author . Delacorte $25.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-385-31366-7

Already having established herself as an inventor of the female private eye and a master of the mystery format, Paretsky skillfully expands the form to tackle several convergent themes in a moving novel of discovery and redemption. V.I. "Vic" Warshawski has a traditional mystery to solve: the life insurance policy of black factory worker Aaron Sommers had been faithfully maintained, paid for weekly even when other demands surely seemed of greater urgency. But when Aaron's widow needed to collect, the company denied the claim, saying the policy had been cashed a decade earlier. That leads Vic to Ajax Life Insurance Co. and Ralph Devereux, whom she encountered in her very first case, Indemnity Only (1982). Her investigation is subtly intertwined with another much more personal and wrenching inquiry into the appearance of a man calling himself Paul Radbuka, whose recovered memory as a child survivor of the Holocaust leads him to claim a kinship with Vic's friend Max Loewenthal. Radbuka's claim has an unexpected and drastic affect on Lotty Herschel, Vic's friend and mentor. The twin investigations allow the author to explore simultaneously the issues raised by the Illinois Holocaust Asset Recovery Act and the issue of reparations for the descendants of slaves. Dark, absorbing, probing—Paretsky's novel explores the complex web of degrees of guilt and complicity surrounding the fate of Holocaust victims and survivors, with Lotty's story emerging with compelling, terrible clarity and inevitability. (Sept. 11)

Forecast:With a six-figure marketing campaign and a subject of universal interest, this novel should bring in lots of new readers who will ensure a healthy run on bestseller lists.

Reviewed on: 07/16/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
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