Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky

‘Indemnity Only’ is the first book in Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series, and while some of the concepts in the book are a little dated, it was an excellent introduction to the series.

V.I. (Vic to her friends, but never Vicki) is a Private Detective in Chicago. She is tough and independent and knows how to look after herself and her job.

Late one night V.I. goes to her office to meet a new client. He introduces himself as John Thayer and hires her to find his son’s girlfriend – Anita Hill, who has gone missing. The circumstances seem a bit odd, but the money that V.I. is paid up-front is very real and very welcome.

V.I. quickly finds out that her client was lying about his identity, and there is no Anita Hill. But, she does find the murdered body of the son of the real John Thayer – Pete, whose girlfriend Anita McGraw is missing.

So, now V.I. not only needs to find a missing girl, but also work out who her client is, and find out who murdered Pete Thayer. But as soon as she starts to investigate, she starts to receive threats. Even her client (quickly identified as Anita’s father – Andrew McGraw) wants her off the case. John Thayer offers her money not to investigate his son’s death and Pete Thayer’s boss – Yardley Masters is condescending and unhelpful.

But V.I. is no quitter. After being beaten up she buys a gun for protection and gets on with the job. Pretty soon she’s digging into the crime underworld finding highly organised fraud and killers for hire. And then there is another murder.

Throughout the novel, V.I. turns to her friends. Dr Lottie Herschel who runs a medical clinic, police Lieutenant Bobby Mallory who worked with her father and Murray – a reporter. Her stubborn persistence and disregard for social correctness see her through the case.


This book was a fun read. I’ve read one other Sara Paretsky book – ‘Breakdown’ which like this one focused a lot on class distinctions – it looks like this might be a theme throughout the series. V.I is mostly believable as a detective and very believable in her relationships.

There were some 1980s issues that are less relevant now, although a female solo detective would probably still struggle today. And, how did we ever get by without mobile phones? The next Sara Paretsky book I’m planning to read is ‘Deadlock’.


Book Published 1982


See a full list of books by Sara Paretsky

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