V I Warshawski thought she was in love with Frank Guzzo when he was a high school baseball star, but she’s long forgotten him until the day he comes into her office, wanting help with his mother. Stella Guzzo is fresh out of prison, where she’s done twenty-five years for murdering her daughter, Frank’s kid sister Annie. Stella hated all the Warshawskis, especially V I’s beloved mother, Gabriella. The detective wants no part of Stella’s late-day demand for exoneration, but life has been hard on Frank and V I’s other childhood friends, stuck in the hardscrabble streets around the dead steel mills, and she doesn’t feel able to say no to Frank.
V I asks a few questions, but the answers leave her puzzled. Was Annie the ardent girl V I remembers, looking for a college education as a way out of South Chicago? Or was she a calculating, amoral young woman, as Frank’s wife and his mother claim? And what about the lawyers Annie worked for—why did they insist on representing Stella Guzzo in her murder trial? When V I gets beaten up after attending a youth meeting in her old ‘hood, her main question becomes whether she will live long enough to find the answers.