cover image Burn Marks

Burn Marks

Sara Paretsky. Delacorte Press, $17.95 (340pp) ISBN 978-0-385-29892-6

The sixth adventure of Chicago private eye Victoria Iphenigia Warshawski begins with arson and proceeds to homicide as the intrepid V.I. contends with ambitious politicians, a construction-business scam, a corrupt cop and the best intentions of her closest family friends. Trouble erupts when her sweet, crafty and alcoholic aunt Elena, burned out of her SRO hotel, appears with a young hooker friend at V.I.'s Northwest Side apartment. The friend's body is found, along with V.I.'s wallet, at a major downtown construction site soon after the detective is bewildered by mysterious warnings not to get involved with the political campaign of a Hispanic woman to whom she has pledged support. Gradually tying these events together, V.I. is beset by the paternalistic interference of the Chicago police detective who had been her deceased father's best friend. While everyone else in this complicated, occasionally tedious, plot urges her toward traditional female paths, V.I. resolutely forges her own trail, maintaining the spunk and humor that have earned her a large, devoted following. Mystery Guild selection; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates; author tour. (Mar.)