Leonard’s 37th backs smooth and easy into Tunica, Mississippi, site of the shaggiest crime tale he’s spun since Maximum Bob (1991).
Normally, the critical moment in Dennis Lenahan’s high dives is the instant his body hits the water. But the final day he’s been setting up his rig at Billy Darwin’s Tishomingo Lodge & Casino, that moment comes as he hears the two guys he’s been watching below execute Floyd Showers, the ex-con who’d been helping him rig the ladders and the perch above. The killers—extortionist Arlen Novis and Junior Owens, who runs Arlen’s honky-tonk—look up 80 feet and see him as clearly as he sees them, and although Charlie Hoke, the alleged half-Chickasaw ex-ballplayer who serves as the casino’s celebrity host, assures them of Dennis’s discretion, there’s no doubt that his position in Tunica has been compromised before he’s even made his first dive. Dennis needs a friend—somebody like Robert Taylor, the soft-spoken black man whose illustrated patter about how his grandfather was lynched by the great-grandfather of moneyed mobile home salesman Walter Kirkbride is so well-oiled that it’s obviously a front for some con Dennis can’t identify. What he doesn’t need is the attention he catches from dangerous women like newscaster Diane Corrigan-Cochrane, who asks him if it’s true that he witnessed Floyd’s murder, and Loretta Novis, Arlen’s willing wife. And he certainly doesn’t need any part of the Civil War reenactment of the battle of Brice’s Cross Roads that will sweep him up together with state investigator John Rau and the Dixie Mafiosi he’s trying to put away, as Leonard (Pagan Babies, 2000, etc.) revels in layers upon layers of playacting and posturing.
Laid-back lowlifes struggle for power, survival, and their 15 minutes of fame in a plot as busy and chaotic as the original battle of Brice’s Cross Roads.