Indemnity Only (V. I. Warshawski Series #1)

Indemnity Only (V. I. Warshawski Series #1)

by Sara Paretsky

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Indemnity Only (V. I. Warshawski Series #1) by Sara Paretsky

Meeting an anonymous client late on a sizzling  summer night is asking for trouble. But trouble is  Chicago private eye V.I. Warshwski's specialty.  Her client says he's the prominent banker, John  Thayer. Turns out he's not. He says his son's  girlfriend, Anita Hill, is missing. Turns out that's  not her real name. V.I.'s search turns up someone  soon enough -- the real John Thayer's son, and  he's dead. Who's V.I.'s client? Why has she been  set up and sent out on a wild-goose chase? By the  time she's got it figured, things are hotter --  and deadlier -- than Chicago in July. V.I.'s in a  desperate race against time. At stake: a young  woman's life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440210696
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/01/1993
Series: V. I. Warshawski Series , #1
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 244
Sales rank: 127,159
Product dimensions: 4.16(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Sara Paretsky is the author of many novels, including her V. I. Warshawski series, which began with Indemnity Only. She lives in Chicago.


Chicago, Illinois

Date of Birth:

June 8, 1947

Place of Birth:

Ames, Iowa


B.A., Political Science, University of Kansas; Ph.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago

Read an Excerpt

The night air was thick and damp. As I drove south along Lake Michigan, I could smell rotting alewives like a faint perfume on the heavy air. Little fires shone here and there from late-night barbecues in the park. On the water a host of green and red running lights showed people seeking relief from the sultry air. On shore traffic was heavy, the city moving restlessly, trying to breathe. It was July in Chicago.
I got off Lake Shore Drive at Randolph Street and swung down Wabash under the iron arches of the elevated tracks, At Monroe I stopped the car and got out.
Away from the lake the city was quieter. The South Loop, with no entertainment beyond a few peep-shows and the city lockup, was deserted—a drunk weaving uncertainly down the street was my only companion. I crossed Wabash and went into the Pulteney Building next to the Monroe Street Tobacco Store. At night it looked like a terrible place to have an office. The hall’s mosaic-tiled walls were chipped and dirty. I wondered if anyone ever washed the scuffed linoleum floor. The lobby must create a reassuring impression on potential clients.
I pushed the elevator button. No response. I tried again. Again no response. I shoved open the heavy stairwell door, climbing slowly to the fourth floor. It was cool in the stairwell and I lingered there a few minutes before moving on down the badly lit hallway to the east end, the end where rents are cheaper because all the offices look out on the Wabash el. In the dim light I could read the inscription on the door: “V. I. Warshawski. Private Investigator.”
I had called my answering service from a filling station on the North Side, just a routine check on my way home to a shower, air conditioning, and a late supper. I was surprised when they told me I had a caller, and unhappy when they said he’d refused to give a name. Anonymous callers are a pain. They usually have something to hide, often something criminal, and they don’t leave their names just so you can’t find out what they’re hiding ahead of time.
This guy was coming at 9:15, which didn’t even give me time to eat. I’d spent a frustrating afternoon in the ozone-laden heat trying to track down a printer who owed me fifteen hundred dollars. I’d saved his firm from being muscled out by a national chain last spring and now I was sorry I’d done it. If my checking account hadn’t been so damned anemic, I’d have ignored this phone call. As it was, I squared my shoulders and unlocked the door.
With the lights on my office looked Spartan but not unpleasant and I cheered up slightly. Unlike my apartment, which is always in mild disarray, my office is usually tidy. I’d bought the big wooden desk at a police auction. The little Olivetti portable had been my mother’s, as well as a reproduction of the Ufizzi hanging over my green filing cabinet. That was supposed to make visitors realize that mine was a high-class operation. Two straight-backed chairs for clients completed the furniture. I didn’t spend much time here and didn’t need any other amenities.
I hadn’t been in for several days and had a stack of bills and circulars to sort through. A computer firm wanted to arrange a demonstration of what computers could do to help my business. I wondered if a nice little desktop IBM could find me paying customers.
The room was stuffy. I looked through the bills to see which ones were urgent. Car insurance—I’d better pay that. The others I threw out—most were first-time bills, a few second-time. I usually only pay bills the third time they come around. If they want the money badly, they won’t forget you. I stuffed the insurance into my shoulder bag, then turned to the window and switched the air conditioner onto “high.” The room went dark. I’d blown a fuse in the Pulteney’s uncertain electrical system. Stupid. You can’t turn an air conditioner right onto “high” in a building like this. I cursed myself and the building management equally and wondered whether the storeroom with the fuse boxes was open at night. During the years I’d spent in the building, I’d learned how to repair most of what could go wrong with it, including the bathroom on the seventh floor, whose toilet backed up about once a month.
I made my way back down the hall and down the stairs to the basement. A single naked bulb lit the bottom of the stairs. It showed a padlock on the supply-room door. Tom Czarnik, the building’s crusty superintendent, didn’t trust anyone. I can open some locks, but I didn’t have time now for an American padlock. One of those days. I counted to ten in Italian, and started back upstairs with even less enthusiasm than before.
I could hear a heavy tread ahead of me and guessed it was my anonymous visitor. When I got to the top, I quietly opened the stairwell door and watched him in the dim light. He was knocking at my office door. I couldn’t see him very well, but got the impression of a short stocky man. He held himself aggressively, and when he got no answer to his knocking, he opened the door without hesitation and went inside. I walked down the hallway and went in after him.
A five-foot-high sign from Arnie’s Steak Joynt flashed red and yellow across the street, providing spasms of light to my office. I saw my visitor whirl as I opened the door. “I’m looking for V. I. Warshawski,” he said, his voice husky but confident—the voice of a man used to having his own way.
“Yes,” I said, going past him to sit behind my desk.
“Yes, what?” he demanded.
“Yes, I’m V.I. Warshawski. You call my answering service for an appointment?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t know it would mean walking up four flights of stairs to a dark office. Why the hell doesn’t the elevator work?”
“The tenants in this building are physical fitness nuts. We agreed to get rid of the elevator—climbing stairs is well known as a precaution against heart attacks.”
In one of the flashes from Arnie’s I saw him make an angry gesture. “I didn’t come here to listen to a comedienne,” he said, his husky voice straining. “When I ask questions I expect to hear them answered.”
“In that case, ask reasonable questions. Now, do you want to tell me why you need a private investigator?”
“I don’t know. I need help all right, but this place—Jesus—and why is it so dark in here?”
“The lights are out,” I said, my temper riding me. “You don’t like my looks, leave. I don’t like anonymous callers, either.”
“All right, all right,” he said placatingly. “Simmer down. But do we have to sit in the dark?”
I laughed. “A fuse blew a few minutes before you showed up. We can go over to Arnie’s Steak Joynt if you want some light.” I wouldn’t have minded getting a good look at him myself.
He shook his head. “No, we can stay here.” He fidgeted around some, then sat in one of the visitors’ chairs.
“You got a name?” I asked, to fill in the pause while he collected his thoughts.
“Oh, yeah, sorry,” he said, fumbling in his wallet. He pulled out a card and passed it across the desk. I held it up to read in a flash from Arnie’s. “John L. Thayer, Executive Vice-President, Trust, Ft. Dearborn Bank and Trust.” I pursed my lips. I didn’t make it over to La Salle Street very often, but John Thayer was a very big name indeed at Chicago’s biggest bank. Hot diggity, I thought. Play this fish right, Vic, I urged myself. Here come de rent!
I put the card in my jeans pocket. “Yes, Mr. Thayer. Now what seems to be the problem?”
“Well, it’s about my son. That is, it’s about his girl friend. At least she’s the one who—” He stopped. A lot of people, especially men, aren’t used to sharing their problems, and it takes them a while to get going. “You know, I don’t mean any offense, but I’m not sure I should talk to you after all. Not unless you’ve got a partner or something.”
I didn’t say anything.
“You got a partner?” he persisted.
“No, Mr. Thayer,” I said evenly. “I don’t have a partner.”
“Well, this really isn’t a job for a girl to take on alone.”
A pulse started throbbing in my right temple. “I skipped dinner after a long day in the heat to meet you down here.” My voice was husky with anger. I cleared my throat and tried to steady myself. “You wouldn’t even identify yourself until I pushed you to it. You pick at my office, at me, but you can’t come out and ask anything directly. Are you trying to find out whether I’m honest, rich, tough, or what? You want some references, ask for them. But don’t waste my time like this. I don’t need to argue you into hiring my services—it was you who insisted on making an appointment for the middle of the night.”

Table of Contents

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From the Publisher

"The Chicago writer  whose name always makes the top of the list when  people talk about the new female operatives."  — Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times  Book Review.

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Indemnity Only 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Indemnity Only, by Sara Paretsky, is downright my favorite book of all time. Indemnity Only is a very likeable murder mystery novel that forces the reader to buy the entire V.I. Warshawski series. One special characteristic about this book is whenever the answer to the murder seems to be obvious, the author turns everything around in a completely different direction. When Sara Paretsky does this, it intrigues the reader to continue on with the book until the issues are resolved in the end. There's nothing better than a fast- paced book that you can’t put down! This book starts out with a visit from a peculiar man on an eerie Chicago night asking V.I. Warshawski, a private investigator, to find his daughter. It turns out that the man gave himself and his missing daughter, Anita, fake names. In the end, V.I.’s client, whose real name is Andrew McGraw, sends her on a wild goose chase to find his daughter. Throughout the novel, V.I. has to find a missing girl, dig deep into an insurance company, and most of all, solve a murder. All in all, in my opinion, Indemnity Only is the best book ever written. Anybody who reads this book could agree that Sara Paretsky did a fantastic job in creating a mystery that is irresistible to put down. To get an idea of how superior this book is to others, picture the best book you've ever read – this novel is five times better. From a bold, know-it-all V.I Warshawski to an ignorant John Thayer, Indemnity Only is a phenomenal novel.
JessLucy More than 1 year ago
I loved this book; sassy, smart-talking V.I. digs into the disappearance of a young woman after a mysterious client hires her. I liked the storyline and Paretsky's clean, sharp prose. I would definately recommend this book and if you like it, you may also enjoy Sue Grafton, Ross McDonald, Raymond Chandler, Marcia Muller and the early books of Robert B. Parker.
Solitaireyqueen More than 1 year ago
My curiosity got the better of me and I finally broke down and got this, the first in the V. I. Warshawski series. This book is set in the 80's so V. I. Warshawski's detective work is slowed by the lack of having a cell phone and other technology. This probably makes things more interesting. It is refreshing to read about a woman detective and I have her other books on my wish list for the future.
Baj83 More than 1 year ago
Because of the author's note in the front of this book, I wasn't sure if I'd like the series or not. However, when I want to try out a new author, I always start with the first book in the series to get acquainted with the main character. It was great! I'm a more conservative type of reader--I don't care for a lot of drinking, sex, or swearing in the books I read. I believe a good book can be just that--a good book without all the other stuff. Anyway, even though there is some sexual connotations and the main character is a drinker, I like her attitude of finding out the truth and not just accepting on the surface what appears to be true. The book moves and is hard to lay aside. She's threatened and finds herself in lots of trouble with the bad guys and the cops, but continues to pursue the clues until she figures out who "dun it". I enjoyed it so much, I keep going back to the used book store or Barnes & Noble to find each additional book. Keep up the good work Ms. Paretsky.
LiteraryFeline on LibraryThing 7 hours ago
This is the first mystery in the V.I. Warshawski series. Vic is a female detective in a man¿s world. She is hired by a man pretending to be someone else and is asked to find a young woman. The investigation takes many twists and turns, placing Vic and her friends in danger. Vic is a strong and resourceful woman. I enjoyed this book¿it was fairly fast paced. Written in the first person narrative, this book takes the reader into the thoughts and musings of the main character. As the mystery was unwoven, I was able to see the thought processes of Vic. The final stand off where Vic revealed the crime seemed anticlimactic, however, because the character had been over it so many times¿spelling out the crime at least twice before facing off with the bad guys. I will definitely give this series a try though as it appears to hold promise.
Anonymous 3 months ago
So well written, & engaging.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tough, no nonsense, beautiful, and seriously kicks assistance. What's not to love? A honest, old fashioned detective story, you get to see all the clues, every piece of the puzzle as they're found no "here, let me pull this undisclosed clue out of my butt, I saw it but you didn't, ta-da" cop-out. A bit dated now, but it still has the proper feel. Decent story and character development, actually quite good for a first novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Good easy read. Good plot. Perfect for enjoyment reading.
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
I’ve never been to Chicago, but I love Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels, so my husband suggested I try something a little more “normal.” Sara Paretsky’s city is just as convincing and intriguing, without the myth and magic. Her first person narrator has the same toughness as Dresden, the same folly in love, and the same downbeat sense of failure. But she's also strong, vibrant and determined, so I enjoyed following her. In this novel, violence causes real injury, crime bosses are a good blend of evil and humanity, and the central mystery grows through time, until good timing reveals it. Strong narration, a determined female protagonist, good friendships and a clever mystery make this a fun first book in the series. Fascinating details add depth and conviction, and I will certainly read more. Indemnity Only is a smooth fast read, balancing feminine interests with tough determination and risk, well-timed asides, an omnipresent fascination with the Cubs, and a clever crime to be solved. Disclosure: My husband buys good books for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gripping mystery, unpredictable . Couldn't put it down. Very well written. Some swearing, violence and brief sex, nothing explicit. I'm usually a cozy reader, but I may read more by this author. Definitely thrilling, but not too scary. I could read this alone at night.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book but could be better. It was a bit slow for me and somewhat predictable. I will still read the series but I won't be as "on fire" for the next one as I would be for the really great books. S. Clanahan
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
I go in spells with the writing of Sara Paretsky. I have followed the V I Warshawski series, a little, by reading the novels in no determinate order. What do I find impossible? Vic has no concept of money, she spends freely and I wonder where her source of money appears. She eats smoked salmon and eats fancy named desserts. Vic is not the average private detective living from case to case. I guess I am used to Janet Evanovich or Laura Lippman's type of female detective. I do appreciate Paretsky's description of Chicago, and the love of the city for the Cubs. But Paretsky misses in the creation of the labor boss and the police department. Still the story is interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and enjoyable with only a few exceptions. Especially fun for Chcagocentrics.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sara Paretsky is a talented writer. I heard about this series through a friend and wanted to start with #1. I enjoyed it very much - it was a real page turner from the beginning. I liked it so much that as soon as I finished, I ordered #2 & #3!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I went backwards to this book in the series after I decided to try and look for a new author/series to read. I enjoyed the latest one, so I thought I would start at the beginning. Good in that time warp kind of way- much like the John Sanford/Lucas Davenport series.
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