cover image Guardian Angel

Guardian Angel

Sara Paretsky. Delacorte Press, $20 (370pp) ISBN 978-0-385-29931-2

Short-tempered and defensive--``ornery,'' according to the cop whom she warily lets into her bed--Chicago private detective V.I. Warshawski abruptly shakes off stereotypes to become more believable and more complex with each appearance. Last seen in Burn Marks , V.I. is currently furious at Todd and Chrissie Pichea, an upscale couple on her block who, upon having themselves appointed legal guardians of an eccentric old neighbor after she has a stroke, immediately have her beloved dogs put to sleep. Soon, Vic and another neighbor, 77-year-old Mr. Contreras, identify the body pulled from the Chicago Sanitary Canal as that of a friend of Contrera's who had recently boasted of having the goods on their old employers at Diamond Head Motors, a small manufacturing concern on the West Side. Investigating Diamond Head, V.I. uncovers a intricate bond-parking scheme that reaches deep into her former husband's prestigious law firm and ties into the behavior of the Picheas. Paretsky's emphasis on character comes at no expense of action: Vic's investigation is as physical as it is mental, taking her inside Chicago's industrial world and up against bad guys who use everything from bats to heavy machinery to thwart her. Among today's PIs, nobody comes close to Warshawski. QPB and Mystery Book Club alternates; BOMC selection; author tour. (Feb.)