A small Midwestern town is way outside VI Warshawski’s comfort zone, but in Fallout, the detective spends a month in Lawrence, Kansas, where author Sara Paretsky grew up.
At loose ends – her lover is in Switzerland while her beloved cranky neighbor, Mr. Contreras is on a Caribbean island with his niece –VI responds to a plea from a couple of college athletes: their trainer has disappeared. August Veriden is African-American and the two young women are sure he’s being framed for a drug robbery. VI starts searching, and learns that August has left Chicago, apparently accompanying an aging film star who wants young August to film her origins story.
VI tracks Veriden and the actress to Lawrence easily enough, but then she loses all trace of them. As she hunts in the town and the surrounding farms, VI starts finding dead or dying women; the local cops are suspicious of her role in their deaths.
Long-simmering conflicts in the town over an old protest at a nearby nuclear missile silo start coming to the surface, but locals won’t tell an outsider their secrets. Meanwhile, a distinguished scientist, a decorated Army colonel, and the head of a big-Ag company all seem bent on blocking the detective’s path. Who or what is the trio hiding? Are they covering up an ancient murder? Germ warfare? Missing nukes? Before long, it begins to look as though the next dead woman will be the detective herself.