Besides the clever ending which gets at the title of the book, this one was a chore to get through. At first I thought a case tying things back to VI's family, specifically her cousin Boom Boom would be great. But after a while the whole thing sounded so freaking implausible I just could not. I also hated that we get a Petra stand in (Boom Boom's goddaughter Bernie) and Mr. Contreras was maddening. We also get a return of Bobby and Conrad (bah to him, I am glad that VI finally told him to let shit go) and the whole book felt endless. I think the big problem is that there were too many moving parts that didn't make a very cohesive plot.
In "Brush Back" we have VI being asked by her ex-boyfriend (from high school) to look into his mother's murder case. More than decades has passed since Frank Guzzo's mother Stella went to jail for the murder of his sister Annie. Stella admits to beating Annie and going to bingo (as one does) but claims she was alive when she left. Things seem to be out of VI's hands after Stella refuses her help and acts like an asshole while doing so. When Stella accuses VI's dead cousin Boom Boom of murdering her daughter and her father covering it up, VI starts snooping to figure out who could have killed Annie if not Stella.
VI was rightfully riled up in this one. I like to see her mad and her investigation skills have not gotten rusty. She knows immediately her cousin could not have done this and starts pulling out threads about the Guzzo family. You also find out how hard things were for VI after her mother passed away and how some of the neighbors were jerks. I can see why she booked it out of South Chicago.
We get familiar secondary characters in this one: Lotty, Max, Bobby, Conrad, VI's tenant she shares office space with, Mr. Contreas, Jake. We also get some new characters, VI's cousin's god daughter who is obviously a Petra stand-in. I didn't like her much in this book and loathed in the next book. She ends up being a pain in the ass and costs VI in both books cause she doesn't listen and swears she knows all. I hope that Paretsky poofs her in book number 19 (Shell Game).
I have to say though the plot doesn't make a lot of sense. The why behind people trying to set up Boom Boom was dumb as hell. If you met VI even once you have to know that threatening her or her family member's memories would not make her back off. Things don't tie together nicely and I have to say the ending was very frustrating/not believable things at all. VI can't just get people to always come out and rescue her and her doing this I am an independent woman who needs no one shtick. I wish she get a partner again, but looks like we won't see that happening anytime soon.