Felled by a heart attack as he pleads a client's case in court, Henry Rios is recalled to life after his heart's been stopped for nearly a minute—but what sort of life does he have to go back to? His lover Josh has died of AIDS; his criminal-defense practice seems to hold nothing but more of the same; not even the promise of a judgeship sparks his enthusiasm. Reaching out from his coma to the sister he hasn't been close to since childhood, however, is only the first step in a new series of difficult, rewarding relationships for Henry (The Death of Friends, 1996, etc.). There's his acceptance of Elena's tender care for him; the revelation that years before she came out as a lesbian, she bore a child she put up for adoption; his cautious meeting with Elena's daughter Vicky, now a battered 30-year-old on the run from her abusive husband; and the call to battle when Vicky takes her son Angel from Henry's house and runs back to Pete Trujillo. Vicky's spasmodic attempts to straighten out her troubled life are clearly headed for trouble, and only Henry will be surprised when she confesses to shooting Pete dead during his latest assault. The only problem for her lawyer is that Pete's been shot in the back of the head, and not with the gun Henry was assured was the murder weapon.
Not much mystery here, but the case, intercut with Henry's own unsought romance, offers a finely compassionate study of the ways love can turn bad, and the problems in loving even when it doesn't.