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Total Recall: A V. I. Warshawski Novel    by Sara Paretsky order for
Total Recall
by Sara Paretsky
Order:  USA  Can
Dell, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have looked forward to reading Total Recall since I found out that it put the spotlight on Dr. Lotty Herschel, the brusquely empathetic mother figure in V. I.'s life. The book lived up to its expectations. As usual, Paretsky is not content with delivering a strong mystery; she also takes on tough topics, in this case the controversial one of recovered memories and the issue of insurance policy payments due to the relatives of Holocaust victims.

The story's protagonist, detective V. I. Warshawski does her usual job of juggling personal crises with the demands of the investigation, though this episode fortunately does not put her through the grinder like the previous one, Hard Times, did. V. I. has settled into a serious relationship with journalist Morrel, who is preparing to head off into Taliban dominated Afghanistan. At the same time, Max needs her help with his endearing but demanding granddaughter Calia, and she's coping with a case, in which an elderly black woman is denied an insurance payment owed to her, because (on paper) she has already claimed it.

The investigation uncovers fraud, quickly followed by a corpse. There is the very fragile (mentally) Paul Radbuka, a victim of childhood abuse, whose recovered memories tell him that he's a Holocaust survivor, related to Max. V. I. finds herself in the minority in distrusting his protective therapist. And there's Lotty, who is shockingly disturbed by the name Radbuka and is going through a major crisis of her own. V. I. bounces from one situation to another, likening herself to a ball in a pinball machine, her concern for Lotty growing as she pieces together the various puzzles in front of her.

Paretsky gives the readers gradual insight into what is happening with Lotty through small flashbacks to her past as a child in Vienna and London, so that we begin to understand what really happened to her (and the cause of her distress) at about the same time as V. I. does. Total Recall is an excellent mystery, one of this author's best, don't miss it!

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