Eager for physical action in the spirit-numbing wake of 9/11, VI Warshawski is glad to take on a routine stake-out for her most important client, Darraugh Graham. His ninety-one year-old mother has sold the family estate, but Geraldine Graham keeps a fretful eye on it from her retirement apartment across the road. When Geraldine sees lights there in the middle of the night, Darraugh sends V I out to investigate-and the detective finds a dead journalist in the ornamental pond. The man is an African-American; when the suburban cops seem to be treating him as a criminal who stumbled to a drunken death, his family hires V I to investigate.
As she retraces the dead reporter’s tracks, V I finds herself in the middle of a Gothic tale of sex, money, and power. The trail leads her back to the McCarthy era blacklists, and forward to the ominous police powers the American government has assumed today. V I finds herself penned into a smaller and smaller space by an array of business and political leaders who can call on the power of the Patriot Act to shut her up. Only her wits, and an unusual alliance she forges with Geraldine Graham and a sixteen year old girl save her.