Privilege, politics, and perfidy jointly propel the circuitous plot of Blacklist, Sara Paretsky's 11th novel featuring tenacious Chicago private-eye V.I. Warshawski. By the time this story runs its course, V.I. will have harbored an alleged Arab terrorist, resurrected the ghosts of America's 1950s anti-Communist hysteria, and questioned the integrity of a man she once admired "to the point of hero worship." In other words, it's a typical case for this hard-headed, sarcastic, and perpetually sleep-deprived sleuth.
Still suffering from "exhaustion of the spirit" in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, V.I. is hired to find out who may be sneaking into a vacated suburban mansion. Geraldine Graham, the home's 91-year-old former owner, who still lives nearby, claims she's seen lights in the attic at night. Our heroine suspects this is simply a bid by the wealthy dowager for greater attention, but agrees to do some nocturnal prowling--only to stumble (literally) across the body of a dead black journalist, Marcus Whitby, in the estate’s ornamental pond and encounter a teenage girl fleeing the scene. The girl turns out to be Catherine Bayard, the granddaughter of Calvin Bayard, an unapologetically liberal book publisher who survived a hounding by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee in the '50s without being blacklisted like so many of his authors. Digging deeper, V.I. learns that Whitby was doing research for a book about an African-American dancer and anthropologist who had enjoyed Bayard's support before she too was branded a Communist. Was Whitby killed en route to visit Bayard, one of Graham's neighbors--and a man who has strangely vanished from public view? And is there any connection between this murder and the disappearance of an Egyptian dishwasher, or the recent demise of a right-wing attorney and Bayard foe, in whose apartment V.I. is attacked by an intruder?