Killing Orders Summary
by Sara Paretsky

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Killing Orders

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When a Chicago priory needs money for a new roof, the brothers discover that five million dollars worth of stock certificates in their safe are forgeries. Were they fakes when they were willed to the order or substitutes that cover a recent theft? Why is the FBI so unwilling to help? The suspects uncovered by V.I. Warshawski’s investigation include worthy Dominicans, a wealthy North Shore matron, the Chicago mob, and even the Vatican--in addition to the detective’s current lover and her unpleasant aunt, who nourishes a family grievance.

As in INDEMNITY ONLY (1982) and DEADLOCK (1984), Paretsky updates the American private-eye genre by creating a very satisfactory female hero and inventing a strong contemporary plot. V.I. Warshawski is a policeman’s daughter, a lawyer who became fed up with the criminal justice system while working as a public defender, and a specialist in financial crime. She has the physical skills to defend herself against attack (in this case, someone tries to blind her with acid), as well as a sassy mouth, a strong sense of values, and a network of women friends who can supply both specialized knowledge and nurturing support.

Paretsky draws on her experience as executive of a Chicago insurance company to create a complicated white-collar crime with a motive more interesting than simple greed or jealousy, though she uses many traditional elements of the detective story, including physical brutality and hired thugs who put the detective’s life in danger. Above all, V.I. Warshawski is a tough investigator whose toughness arises from real human needs, and a convincing woman sleuth who is not simply an imitation man.