V.I. has been visiting Club Gouge, 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.
The show attracts all kinds of people, from a menacing off-duty cop to Ukrainian monsters and Iraq war veterans - and V.I.’s impetuous cousin, Petra. A tormented young painter shows up too, and the intricate designs she creates on the Body Artist drive one of the soldiers into a violent rage.
When the 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 V.I. to clear his name, and the detective uncovers a chain of ugly truths that stretches all the way from Iraq to Chicago’s South Side.