'Doctors take days off - why not PIs?' V.I. Warshawski demands. But when the hardest-working of private eyes goes out one night, a stranger is shot and dies in her arms. V.I. has been visiting Club Gouge, Chicago's edgiest night spot, where a woman known as the Body Artist turns her naked body into a canvas for the audience to paint on. The show attracts all kinds of people, from a menacing off-duty cop to Ukrainian mobsters and Iraq war veterans - and V.I.'s impetuous cousin, Petra. A tormented young painter shows up too, and the intricate designs she creates on the Body Artist drive one of the soldiers into a violent rage. When the painter is shot, the police think it's a clear-cut case: a shell-shocked war veteran goes off the rails. But the soldier's family hires V.I. to clear his name, and the detective uncovers a chain of ugly truths that stretches all the way from Iraq to Chicago's South Side.