Driving home one night from a party for Global Studio star Lacey Dowell (the Mad Virgin), V.I. Warshawski nearly runs over a woman dying on an Edgewater street. When Nicola Aguinaldo does die in the hospital Vic rushes her to, Chicago’s finest come down on Vic like a ton of bricks, losing the accident report that would clear her, then the body itself before it can be autopsied. But Vic already knows that the undocumented Filipina who’d just escaped from Coolis Prison wasn’t the victim of a hit-and-run: she—d been kicked to death. How does her killing tie in to the crime that sent her to prison’stealing a necklace from Eleanor Baladine, whose husband Robert owns the behemoth security corporation that runs Coolis? Why was Nicola wearing a T-shirt made by Lacey Dowell’s old friend Lucian Frenada, who keeps trying to get Lacey to cast a glance his way? Why does Global attorney Alexandra Fisher (formerly Vic’s law school classmate Sandy Fishbein) want to hire Vic to keep Frenada off Lacey’s back? And why, after Vic turns down the job, does non-swimmer Frenada wind up practicing his breaststroke in Belmont Harbor? Before Vic can come up with answers to all these questions, the bullies ranged against her trump up another charge that gets her thrown into Coolis herself—but throughout her harrowing ordeals in the women’s prison, you’re never in doubt who’s going to end up sorry. Since nobody needs more than one scene to make an indelible impression, Paretsky has room to build one of her most satisfyingly ambitious novels yet; not till it’s all over do you realize how much of the solution you already knew. A triumphant return to form for V.I., who’s come back from a five-year sabbatical (Tunnel Vision, 1994, etc.) as strong as Vladimir Horowitz.