Paretsky (Bitter Medicine, etc.) is becoming the writer that Robert Parker used to be. Here, she juggles wisecracks, tenderness, and grit in a story that returns Chicago p.i. V.I. Warshawski to her southside roots--on a case that starts out small and personal and winds up catastrophically big, with possible fatalities in the thousands. When Caroline, whom V.I. always regarded as her little sister, asks V.I. to find out who her father was, the shamus reluctantly agrees. The likeliest possibilities, Steve Ferraro and Joey Pankowski, both worked at the same southside chemical plant as Caroline's mom, but when V.I. tries to pry their addresses from Personnel she's given the runaround--then inexplicably invited for cognac with the CEO, Gustave Humboldt, whose chitchat reveals that both men are dead; that a court of law denied their illnesses were work related; and that it might be healthier if V.I. stopped nosing into the matter. Soon Nancy Cleghorn, the environmental director of SCRAP (South Chicago ReAwakening Project), is found drowned in Dead Stick Pond; retired Humboldt Chemical physician Curtis Chigwell is attempting to burn his journals and commit suicide; Alderman Jurshak is clandestinely meeting gangster biggie Dresberg; his son is in hiding; V.I. is clobbered and dragged off to Dead Stick Pond in a sack; and Caroline's longed-for father turns out to be involved in an insurance fraud/cover-up with the chemical company regarding the dire effects of its cleaning solvent Xerxine. A strong indictment of gentlemen with sorry morals and old-time ward politics. Paretsky could not have written this one better.