Total Recall, Sara Paretsky, Delacorte Press, 2001, 414 pp
Once again Paretsky tackles an entirely different issue in one of her most intense novels so far. Lotty Herschel, V I Warshawski's beloved friend and mother substitute, has always been a prickly, complex character in the series. Now in Total Recall, we finally learn why.
As usual, financial crimes are mixed into the story, as well as racial tension and political misbehavior. Though there is a certain amount of violence, the danger to V I this time is more emotional than physical. When a young man named Paul Radbuka appears and claims to be a Holocaust survivor, having discovered his true identity through recovered-memory therapy, it throws Lotty into an emotional tailspin. In order to help her friend, V I must get to the bottom of it all with no help from Lotty.
It is a harrowing story, brilliantly played out. Warshawski's current lover is on his way to Afghanistan to cover war news, a five-year-old girl becomes the target of the strange Paul Radbuka in his desperate attempt to insert himself as a relative of Lotty, and the recovered-memory therapist is a complete piece of New Age sensibility who almost brings disaster to all.
What will Sara Paretsky do next? The emotional insight she displays here is quite impressive as a study in the deep connection between loss, crime and mental states.
(Total Recall is available in mass market paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)