When she agrees to help lathe operator Isaiah Sommers press his claim for his recently deceased uncle’s piddling $10,000 policy with Ajax Insurance, V.I. Warshawski has no idea that the case will blow up in her face—first with her former lover Ralph Devereux’s insistence that Ajax paid out the policy ten years ago when they got proof that Aaron Sommers had died, then with the stunning news that muckraking Alderman Louis Durham has publicly tarred her as an Ajax toady determined to bilk the Sommers family out of their rightful due. But an unsought case is even uglier. A Holocaust survivor named Paul Radbuka, his repressed memories of his unspeakable past restored by hypnotherapist Rhea Wiell, has convinced himself that he’s related to Vic’s old friend Dr. Lotty Herschel. Now he’s stalking Lotty and her intimates, Max Loewenthal and Carl Tisov, trying to force them to acknowledge him. As Lotty’s nerves fray, a trail of corpses begins to form behind the two cases—the owner of the independent firm that sold the Aaron Sommers policy, the Ajax clerk in charge of the Sommers file—and Radbuka himself is shot. Just how, Vic wonders, are her two investigations related—and what’s the deeper connection between the issues of Holocaust reparations and reparations for African-American slavery?
Paretsky loves to bite off more than she can chew, and her tenth novel (after Hard Time, 1999, etc.) is her most fiercely ambitious to date. No wonder the heroically mounting complications are never quite brought under control: her furious energy keeps the final pages still churning.