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Private eye V I Warshawski goes out one night to 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. When a 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 Warshawski to clear his name, and she soon uncovers a chain of ugly truths that stretches all the way from Iraq to Chicago's South Side.