No degree, no job, no boyfriend, no prospects for floundering underachiever Lee Donne, whose most prestigious position is housesitting for her grandfather while he’s off lecturing on Shakespeare. When someone keeps throwing gravel at the roof in the middle of the night, Lee is scared. With help from her visiting college roommate, computer whiz Casey, she tries to trap the intruder, with horrendous results. Soon enough, the FBI pops ’round and insists on searching the house. They find nothing, but Lee does: a cache of pictures taken at a lynching 45 years ago. One of the participants is her grandmother Geneva; another is Walter Dumarie, now a third-party presidential candidate. When Lee calls her supposed FBI contact to report, the Bureau insists it never heard of him. Baffled, she rings up the most honest man she knows, ugly Bruno Perillo, a former college instructor now a San Jose newspaper reporter. Together, aided by some new skullduggery by Casey and some backing from Bruno’s paper, they hotfoot it to New Orleans to try identifying the locations in the photographs. They’re shot at and chased across the country before the fake FBI agent reappears, only to be thwarted by a brave and wily bank teller.
What starts as a creepy endangered-woman scenario quickly deepens to a study of family secrets and loyalty before it’s undercut by a typical high-speed chase. Even then, old pro Wilhelm (Desperate Measures, 2001, etc.) presents the women in Lee’s family with such psychological acuity that you can’t help caring about them.