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V I Warshawski may have left her old South Chicago neighborhood, but she learns that she cannot escape it. When V I takes over coaching duties of the girls’ basketball team at her former high school, she faces an ill-equipped, ragtag group of gangbangers, fundamentalists, and teenage moms, who inevitably draw the detective into their family woes.
Through young Josie Dorrado, V I meets the girl’s mother, who voices her worries about sabotage in the little flag manufacturing plant where she works. The biggest employer on the South Side, discount-store behemoth By-Smart, pays even less, and Ms. Dorrado doesn’t know how she’ll support her four children if the flag plant shuts down.

The elder Dorrado’s fears are realized when the plant explodes; V I is injured and the owner is killed. As V I begins to investigate, she finds herself confronting the Bysen family, who own the By-Smart company. Founder William “Buffalo Bill” Bysen, now in his eighties, has four sons who quarrel with each other and with him; the oldest, “Young Mr. William,” is close to sixty and furious that his father doesn’t cede more power to him. And then, there’s “Billy the Kid,” Young Mr. William’s nineteen-year-old son, whose Christian idealism puts him on a collision course with his father, his grandfather, and the company as a whole.

When Billy runs away with Josie Dorrado, V I is squeezed between the needs of two very different families. As she tries to find the errant teenagers, and to track down a particularly cruel murderer, her own life is almost forfeit in the swamps that lie under the city of Chicago.

Reviews

'How enjoyable to settle down with a new book by Sara Paretsky.'
<i>Sunday Telegraph</i>
With the creation of V.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky did more than anyone to change the face of contemporary women's fiction.
<i>Express on Sunday</i>
'Warshawski's darkest outing, with no sign that her creator is flagging. Paretsky has written a novel in which a great deal is stripped bare, including Warshawski's innermost anxieties about herself, producing a narrative as gripping as it is emotionally wrenching.'
JOAN SMITH, <i>Sunday Times</i>