Three criminals (and a psychic) get more than they bargain for when they kidnap a bookie to drain his bank account, because his ex-girlfriend is dating US Marshal Raylan Givens. Chip Ganz came up with the scheme: grab former mob bookie Harry Arno, keep him chained up and blindfolded for weeks, and finally, when he thinks all hope is lost, offer to set him free, for a price.
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His partners are Bobby Deo and Louis Lewis, and yes, that's his real name. They're not so sure that Chip is up to the task of something as serious as kidnapping and ransom taking. The plan starts when psychic Dawn Navarro lulls Harry into a state of hypnosis, so she can find out how much money he's got. Turns out it's three million dollars in an offshore account -- more than worth the risk, so Chip, Louis, and Bobby snatch Harry from Dawn's house.
What none of them know is that Harry is still friends with his ex, Joyce, and that when she doesn't hear from him for several days, she puts Raylan on the case. It doesn't take him long to find Dawn, and from there go to Chip's house, where he has a brief run-in with Bobby. Raylan leaves, convinced Harry is there, but unable to get a warrant to go in.
Raylan leans on Dawn and the kidnappers one at a time, and the pressure begins to show. Louis and Bobby grab another victim, a rich savings and loan officer, but Bobby kills him back at Chip's house. Bobby runs into Raylan again, at Dawn's house, and intends to have a guns-drawn duel with the marshal, but chickens out at the last minute.
Meanwhile, Louis is scheming to cut his partners out of the deal. He kills Bobby in a "practice" duel, and gets Harry ready to hop on a boat to the Bahamas, where his bank account is. Raylan catches Chip in another neighborhood and tricks him into cooperating, finally giving the marshal permission to enter the house.
Louis sees Raylan coming, and they face off in the back yard. Louis assumes he has the upper hand, because he already has a shotgun in his hand. He could fire faster than the marshal could draw from his holster. He's about to do so when a gunshot kills him -- from Harry, who found another gun upstairs and fired from the balcony.
In the end, Joyce is taking care of Harry and Raylan pays a visit to Dawn, who attempts to seduce him to avoid arrest. He tells her that he won't arrest her, but she comes on to him anyway, and the rigid lawman begins to consider that bedding down with her might not be a bad idea after all.
Best part of story, including ending:
Leonard's formula is at its best with the diverse crew of characters here, from the straight-arrow lawman to the cute psychic and the cocky bookie who ripped off the mob and got away with it.
Best scene in story:
When Bobby is facing down Raylan outside of Dawn's house, the tension rises as a quick-draw duel seems imminent. But when it doesn't happen, the tension goes even higher and keeps you reading until the end.
Opinion about the main character:
Raylan likes to act like a marshal from the Old West, but he seems at times unaware of things going on around him, like how his girlfriend is losing interest and that she isn't really excited to meet the other cute girl that Raylan has been spending time with.