Stubbornness has landed private eye V.I. Warshawski in big trouble at her Chicago office. With her grand old Loop building set to be razed, she's become a hold-out tenant amid frayed wiring and scary, empty corridors. Then she finds a homeless woman with three kids in the basement, and before she can rescue them, they disappear. Worst of all, she's been implicated in a murder--after the body of Deirdre Messenger, a prominent lawyer's wife, turns up sprawled across her desk.
The eighth novel in her series, Paretsky's female sleuth V.I. Warshawski returns to solve a murder involving a round of political figures. (June) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 1993
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Excerpt from Tunnel Vision by Sara Paretsky
Chapter 1: Power Failure
When the power went I was finishing a ten-page report. My office turned black; the computer groaned to a halt. Helpless, I watched my words fade to a ghostly outline that glowed on the screen before vanishing, like the mocking grin of a Cheshire cat.
I cursed myself and the building owners impartially. If I'd stuck with my mother's old Olivetti instead of going electronic I could have finished mywork by candlelight and left. But if the Culpepper brothers weren't scuttling the Pulteney Building the power wouldn't have gone off.
I'd had my office there for ten years, so long I'd come to overlook its litany of ills. Decades of grime obscured the bas-reliefs on the brass doors and filled in missing chips in the lobby's marble floor; great chunks of plaster were missing from the cornices in the upper floors; three ladies' rooms served the whole building, and the toilets backed up more often than they worked. For that matter, I'd just about memorized the design on the elevator panels during the hours I'd been stuck in it.
All these evils were made palatable by the Pulteney's low rents. I should have realized long since that the Culpepper boys were waiting for the wave of Loop redevelopment to wash this far south, waiting for the day when the building would be worth more dead than alive. The dickering we did every fall, in which I walked away triumphant without a rent hike and they left without agreeing to put in new plumbing or wiring, should have been a warning to a detective like me who specializes in fraud, arson, and commercial misbehavior. But as with many of my clients, cash flow was too insistent a problem for me to look beyond relief from my immediate woes.
The building had already been one-third empty when the Culpeppers handed out their notice at New Year's. They tried first to bribe, then to force, the rest of us into leaving. Some did, but tenants who could take the Pulteney couldn't easily afford new space. Hard times were pushing everyone who operates in the margins right off the page. As a private eye in a solo practice, I felt the pinch as much as anyone. Along with a hatmaker, a dealer in oriental health and beauty aids, someone who might have been a bookie, an addressing firm, and a few others, I was sticking it out to the bitter end.
I picked up my flashlight and moved with the speed of much practice through the dark hall to the stairwell. The report I'd been writing had to be in Darraugh Graham's hands by eight tomorrow. If I could find a faulty wire or blown fuse fast enough, I could pull in enough material from my data files to reconstruct the essentials. Otherwise I'd have to start from the beginning on the Olivetti.