When V. I. Warshawski, 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, 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 Ukrainian mobsters and Iraq war veterans. A tormented young painter shows up too, and the intricate designs she creates drive one of the soldiers into a violent rage. When the painter is shot, the police think it’s a clear-cut case. But the soldier’s family hires V.I. to clear his name. And the detective uncovers a chain of ugly truths.