Max Travis, the white-knight ADA of Portland, Oregon, is in big trouble this time, and it’s all his fault.
Max (The Shake, 2000) doesn’t think he’s in trouble, of course. Max thinks he’s in love. The twice-divorced workaholic, who’s just been dumped by his old professional rival, defense attorney Paige Prescott, has caught the eye of hairstylist Dana Waverleigh just as his friend Bill Roop was splitting up with her, and he’s fallen hard. After one night together he can hear bells ringing; after three dates they’re talking about marriage and children; after two weeks Max feels as if he’s known her forever. But he hasn’t, or he’d know that in addition to her three husbands, she’s been with a man who fathered one of her daughters and, more recently and disastrously, with Jack Nitzl, the underhanded used-car dealer who, inspired by her offhand remark about the home safe where Roop keeps the take from his bar, has staged a home invasion together with cranked-up body-shop owner Nicky Bortolotti—who, surprised to see Roop entertaining retired basketball player Highwire Harris and not that crazy about African-Americans anyway, has capped the evening by shooting the athlete. It gets worse. Jack, catching a glimpse of Dana as he flees the scene, threatens to give her up to the cops as a willing co-conspirator unless she feeds him information on every move Max is making. And Nicky, for whom personal loyalty is a lot less important than his next fix, is getting more and more impatient with anybody he thinks might be onto him.
Patton keeps the pot boiling briskly in the deceptively laid-back manner of Elmore Leonard, but his real gift is to get inside his driven characters—from sky-high Nicky to basically nice Dana to Max, dazed by a love too good to be true—and evoke the energy and frequent sweetness behind their improbable ardor.