cover image Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision

Sara Paretsky. Delacorte Press, $21.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-385-29932-9

As prickly and principled as ever, Chicago's preeminent female PI, V.I. Warshawski, forcefully unravels several knotted mysteries in Paretsky's ( Guardian Angel ) latest complex, satisfying novel. V.I. encounters a homeless woman and her children in the basement of her derelict downtown office building. When she mentions the family at a board meeting of a shelter for abused women, board member Deirdre Messenger offers to seek help from Home Free, another organization she is involved with. Soon, however, Deirdre's bludgeoned body is found in V.I.'s office. Setting out to find the murderer, the almost-40 detective gradually uncovers a mammoth financial scam that may link the dead woman's husband (an ambitious University of Chicago Law School professor), the ranking U.S. Senator from Illinois, a Chicago bank owner and Home Free's director, a radical activist who was at law school with V.I. in the '60s. Equally compelling--to V.I. and the reader--are the plights of the homeless family and of the Messenger children, teenaged Emily and her two young brothers, who disappear soon after their mother's death. Breaking laws and alienating friends--including her lover Conrad, a Chicago police detective--V.I. faces down rats in high places and low, from the cornfields of the Senator's agribusiness to the tunnels, deep under the Chicago Loop, flooded by a water-main break. Paretsky's V.I. is a rare literary entity, a woman quick to anger and action, yet sympathetic and credible. Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections. (May)