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3.8 out of 5 stars13
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 26 October 2001
There isn't a private investigator in the whole of contemporary fiction as strong or as angry as V.I.Warshawski. From her brilliant entry into crimewriting with "Indemnity Only", Sara Paretsky's interest in corrupt dealings with finance & insurance, makes her an expert in the fascinating study of following money trails through account books. "Total Recall" reveals the background to Dr Lotty Herschell's escape from Europe, while V.I. investigates a man using a name Lottie remembers from her past, but she refuses to identify it. He insists he is related to her friend Max, but refuses to reveal his real name. V.I.'s exasperation with clues that lead nowhere, a local blue-collar family cheated of death insurance, apparently connected to banks in Switzerland, where protesters in Chicago are calling for recovery of holocaust assets. The plot is exacerbated by a recovered-memory therapist who insists the imposter is who he claims. Lotty crumbles slowly under the pressure of her past, while V.I. drives around Chicago piecing together a mosaic of information from deaths & lies & misplaced corporate loyalty. As always, Warshawski is driven forward mostly by impatience but also her sense of honour & determination to keep her word, solve the mysteries & put everything right. There is nobody anywhere as exciting or as ethically bolshie as V.I. There isn't a shred sanctimony in Paretsky's books, but each is written with witty humour & a strong social conscience.
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VINE VOICEon 5 December 2001
Good book, one of SP's best I feel. I enjoyed delving deeper into the life of Lotty, even though I guessed what had happened to her about a 1/4 of the way through the book. I really did enjoy it, however one small thing without giving too much away the end disapointed me as there wasn't really closure on one of the characters in the book. Is he going to be in the next one?
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I would have graded this book at 3.5 stars, if I could, so I rounded to the even number above as my math teachers always taught me to do.
Total Recall is built around the theme of how our current behavior is held prisoner by our perceptions of the past. Ms. Paretsky does a fine job of making it clear that we should keep our eyes open, look around, and exercise an open mind instead.
The strength of this book is the way that many different story lines are intertwined in a way that keeps your attention and mostly make sense. Despite this successful plot design, I was disappointed that several promising themes were raised and not fully dealt with, such as "recovered" memory, what Holocaust survivors should and should not feel guilt about, and the need for proper management and regulation of insurance companies. I would have been glad to read another 100 pages of this fine work to explore more in these areas.
The book's key weaknesses were in two areas: First, the characters are developed in ways that make them less strong and heroic than you probably have thought of them based on earlier V.I. Warshawski novels, particularly Lotty. Ms. Paretsky seems to have a jaundiced view of the moral strength and courage of her characters in this book except for Vic, which left me feeling a little down at the end. To me, the book's portrayal of the ongoing characters in this series seemed inauthentic in terms of the earlier novels. Second, the ultimate resolution of who the "bad guys" are and why they have been misbehaving didn't seem quite believable. I would have liked a better "rabbit out of the hat" to explain all of the contemporary wrong-doing.
Overall, the book gains a rich glow of context from touching on children escaping the Holocaust that I thought allowed the book to transcend the usual mystery genre. Ms. Paretsky effectively uses Lotty as a narrator for parts of the book, which helps to give her story line a richer flavor.
Vic is well portrayed in the book. She is her usual impatient, remorseless, and rule-bending self. You will enjoy her frustration with traffic, cell phones, and people who will not help her immediately. The story line of her relationship with Morrell is very delicately and interestingly done here.
After you finish this book, I suggest that you think about where you could change your assumptions about who you are and what you are able to accomplish . . . for the better. Break the chains of beliefs that create self-confining habits. Then, act with the potential you hold within you!
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on 1 August 2008
Whilst the story is entertaining and well told it's not exactly hihghly original and becomes predicatble pretty soon. The ending doesn't satisfy as the people who were the killers usually would not get their hands dirty. The reading is well executed but the high pitched girly voice doesn't sound much like a seasoned private investigator.
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on 22 February 2002
Sara Paretsky is one of my favorite authors and with Hard Time she's surpassed herself. I was disappointed with Total Recall even if it is a good book. Most of all, it does shed some light on Lotty and I now understand her much better than I did before. She was a lovable character but I did wonder about the reasons for her extreme aloofness. Now I understand and I like her even more. However, even if some of the power is clearly there (Lotty and her story), some is missing (the Swiss people are not very much alive, and the therapist remains a mystery).
However, it's a wonderful book nonetheless. I love Sara P. and Vic.
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on 17 August 2011
VI's investigation into a dodgy life assurance claim leads her to unearth long-buried secrets from the Second World War, and culminates in painful revelations from her closest friend, Lottie. Lots of well-crafted storylines which weave together satisfyingly and acerbic one-liners from VI. Sensitively handled and ultimately very moving.
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on 27 November 2015
Not yet read them, but am avidly looking forward to doing so. I still recovering from reading Ghost City. What a dark tale, Intriguing, and compelling reading.
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on 31 March 2005
A moving and also winning story, which shows Sarah Paretsky at her best, with VI batting for her oldest and most long-suffering friend.
The story is unusual in having long flash-back scenes over many years which effectively show the effect of suffering on VI's friend. This helps to inform the current day storylines which demonstrate how difficult "Total Recall" can be.
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on 31 January 2014
Yet another great read from Sara Paretsky..A very intriguing and captivating story right till the end. I recommend this to anybody who likes detective stories.
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on 25 August 2006
I've read and re-read all the VI novels and this has got to be my least favourite. It is difficult to stay focused on and remember all the characters as there are two stories going on. I have to admit that I've never finished this book and probably never will. It's just not up to the same fast paced standard of the others.
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