Bitter Medicine by Sara Paretsky

‘Bitter Medicine’ is the 4th book in Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series and deals with the thorny issues of pro-life and medicine for the poor.

V.I.’s friend Lotty Hershel runs a medical clinic that helps many poor people, so V.I. has known Lotty’s assistant Carol Alvarado and her family for many years. Carol’s younger sister, Consuelo, is 16 years old, diabetic and very pregnant. Against medical advice for her own safety, Consuelo decided to have her baby. She married the father, a complete no-hoper named Fabiano, who has never had a job.

Now on a hot summer day, V.I. is driving Consuelo and Fabiano to a factory outside Chicago where Fabiano has a job interview. But, after Fabiano enters the building, Consuelo goes into labour. V.I. rushes her to the nearest hospital – a very plush private one. By law, they must treat Consuelo as an emergency patient, but since she is poor and Hispanic, they are not keen. Even after Consuelo’s own doctor – Malcolm Tergiere rushes to the hospital, both Consuelo and the baby die.

There are questions about the level of care that Consuelo received, but V.I. finds herself falling for the head of obstetrics at the hospital – Peter Burgoyne.

Then life starts to completely unravel. There is a brutal murder, then Lotty’s clinic is attacked by a pro-life group. V.I. starts to investigate the murder, but is brutally attacked. Then her apartment is broken into and trashed.

With the help of police detective Rawlings, V.I. begins to uncover the links between the crimes and find out who is responsible.


This was another action packed and contentious addition to the series. It is set in the mid-1980s but many things have not changed very much since then.

I enjoyed the re-appearance of some of the regular characters in the series – Lotty Herchel, Murray Ryerson and Mr Contreras. And now we have a new addition to the caste in Peppy.

I’m enjoying this series and I look forward to reading the next book – ‘Blood Shot / Toxic Shock’.


Book Published 1987


See a full list of books by Sara Paretsky

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