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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Total Recall

My latest book from the library is Total Recall by Sara Paretsky. I usually read science fiction or fantasy, but my sister reads mysteries and she picked this one out for me.

Sara Paretsky mostly writes novels about V. I. Warshawski .....

a female private investigator. Warshawski's eclectic personality defies easy categorization. She drinks Johnnie Walker Black Label, breaks into offices looking for clues, and can hold her own in a street fight. But she also pays attention to her clothes, sings opera along with the radio, and enjoys her sex life. Paretsky is credited with transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel. [5] - Wikipedia

Here's the Publishers Weekly blurb for Total Recall at the Amazon page for the book ....

Already having established herself as an inventor of the female private eye and a master of the mystery format, Paretsky skillfully expands the form to tackle several convergent themes in a moving novel of discovery and redemption. V.I. "Vic" Warshawski has a traditional mystery to solve: the life insurance policy of black factory worker Aaron Sommers had been faithfully maintained, paid for weekly even when other demands surely seemed of greater urgency. But when Aaron's widow needed to collect, the company denied the claim, saying the policy had been cashed a decade earlier. That leads Vic to Ajax Life Insurance Co. and Ralph Devereux, whom she encountered in her very first case, Indemnity Only (1982). Her investigation is subtly intertwined with another much more personal and wrenching inquiry into the appearance of a man calling himself Paul Radbuka, whose recovered memory as a child survivor of the Holocaust leads him to claim a kinship with Vic's friend Max Loewenthal. Radbuka's claim has an unexpected and drastic affect on Lotty Herschel, Vic's friend and mentor. The twin investigations allow the author to explore simultaneously the issues raised by the Illinois Holocaust Asset Recovery Act and the issue of reparations for the descendants of slaves. Dark, absorbing, probing Paretsky's novel explores the complex web of degrees of guilt and complicity surrounding the fate of Holocaust victims and survivors, with Lotty's story emerging with compelling, terrible clarity and inevitability.

I've never read one of Paretsky's novels before but I've been pleasantly surprised so far. It's interesting that the story takes place in Chicago, where all those Dresden Files novels are also set, and also interesting is the part of the story set in WWII era London.

An intriguing issue brought up in the story is whether our memories can be trusted and that reminded me of the ongoing argument on the subject: read Jonah Lehrer's aerticle at Wired, The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever, and this response at The New Atlantis - Jonah Lehrer’s Errors on Memory and Forgetting.


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