Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Tunnel Vision, Sara Paretsky, Delacorte Press, 1994, 432 pp

Sara Paretsky's eighth novel is the one I like best so far. Private investigator V I Warshawski is almost 40 years old now and though she is as fearless and head-headed as always, she is aware of a slight slowing down physically. That does not prevent her from breaking into buildings, rescuing people from flooded tunnels under Chicago or suffering her third concussion.

I remember the high numbers of homeless people on Colorado Blvd in Pasadena when I first moved to Los Angeles in 1991. I have often wondered where they all came from so suddenly and where they have gone now. Was it the backlash from Reagonomics or the emptying of mental institutions? Do we have better social services now?

In any case, Tunnel Vision takes place in 1992. It features a homeless woman and her three children, includes human trafficking of workers from Romania and, as usual, government corruption mixed with financial crime.

Paretsky has always been strong on plot but here she scales down on her cast of characters and I found it easier to follow the story. Not that I figured it all out before Vic did, but I was tracking with her and felt I had a prayer of understanding how she worked it out.

I am now over halfway through Paretsky's books and the next one is a stand alone without Warshawski, though Ghost Country is set in Chicago and in the author's words is a story of "the sacred and the dispossessed meeting on the streets." Sounds fabulous to me.

I have enjoyed the journey of Sara Paretsky's writing. The tough-talking PI has matured, along with her creator, into a fully realized, complex character who delves into both her social and personal issues with equal intensity. Underneath the action/adventure heroine's fast-paced heroics is some of the best feminist fiction around.

(Tunnel Vision is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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