V.I. Warshawski isn't crazy about going back to her old south Chicago neighborhood, but a promise is something she always keeps. Caroline, a childhood friend, has a dying mother and a problem after twenty-five years she wants V.I. to find the father she never knew. But when V.I. starts probing into the past, she not only finds out where all the bodies are buried she stumbles onto a very new corpse. Now she's stirring up a deadly mix of big business and chemical corruption that may become a toxic shock to a snooper who knows too much.
The fifth and finest in Paretsky's praised series returns heroine Victoria (V. I.) Warshawski, lawyer/private detective, to describe mysterious circumstances arising from a seemingly insignificant case. A visit to a childhood friend in South Chicago, Caroline Djiak, ends with Warshawski agreeing to look for the father Caroline never knew and whom neither her mother Louisa, although she's dying, or maternal grandparents will name. Almost at once, however, Caroline begs the detective to stop the search. She is badly frightened when a co-worker in a neighboring recycling plant is murdered, but Warshawski won't quit the investigation now that she suspects criminals have a bigger motive for killing than keeping the father's identify secret. The decision to fight on entangles V. I. with the powerful owner of a chemical company and his minionsa venal doctor who falsifies employee records, South Chicago's corrupt alderman, a gangster profiteer with a stranglehold on the city's trash collectionsand thugs hired to kill ``the snoop.'' It's a gripping, entertaining story, although sobering as a warning against thieving officials who pollute natural resources and rob the public. Mystery Guild dual main selection; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections. (September)