Paretsky exploits post-9/11 paranoia to take up for the little guy once more, as V.I. Warshawski gets her First Amendment rights stomped while fencing with obstructive witnesses and unreliable clients.
As her lover Morrell fights the good fight in Afghanistan, Warshawski (Total Recall, 2001, etc.) fancies herself a 20th-century Penelope with a p.i. license. She uses it to investigate longtime corporate client Darraugh Graham’s 90-year-old mother’s complaint that she sees lights from her nursing home window in long-abandoned Larchmont Hall next door. The first thing Vic finds is a scared teenager—Catherine Bayard, granddaughter of publishing giant Calvin Bayard and his wife Renee, who along with Geraldine and MacKenzie Graham formed the foundation of enlightened but proper society in old-money New Solway—whose journey down the politically progressive path of her grandparents has landed her in big trouble. The second is a dead reporter: Marc Whitby, who’d been working a story on dancer Kylie Ballantine, a casualty of Olin Taverner’s 1950s witch hunt, for T-Square, a magazine by and for young African-Americans. Soon Vic has a new client—Harriet Whitby, who thinks that the DuPage county coroner’s verdict of suicide is bunk—and she’s wanted by the FBI and the cops in two jurisdictions, her apartment ransacked, and her phone bugged, all for treading on the wrong toes.
Paretsky emphasizes the political but doesn’t neglect the personal here: a compelling tale of secrets that can’t stay buried.