Gambler Mike Belen is a bit down on his luck when he unexpectedly meets ex-wife Cathy Lane in New Orleans. They grew up together and still share anger at Martin Lachlan, their fathers' former business partner whose crooked activities brought ruin to the two men. Cathy has tracked down Lachlan in San Francisco and devised a scheme to bilk him of much of his fortune. But her plan requires a large chunk of money to get underway. So her first target is Howard Goodwin, formerly Lachlan's accomplice and now a small-town banker. Cathy wants Mike to join her team of scam artists, which includes well-known con-man Wolford Charles ("Prince Charlie") and an inexperienced friend from New York, Judd Bolton. Mike, almost as interested in getting together again with his ex-wife as he is in inflicting revenge on Lachlan, is happy to participate. Before they can begin, a thug named Donnelly shows up, smacks Cathy across the face and demands quick payment of an alleged debt. Mike begins to think there's more to her story than she has yet told him.
Williams has concocted a double dose of double-dealing. Each half of the book -- the first set in Wyecross, Texas, the second in San Francisco -- pretty much stands as a separate story. The author makes it clear from the slapping scene, in which Mike doesn't rise to Cathy's defense, that the novel's protagonist is no tough-guy hero. He's calm and thoughtful, qualities that also define his narrative style as he takes readers through one incident after another. Which is not to say that he always knows when he's manipulating other people and when someone is manipulating him. At times, in fact, he seems implausibly gullible. The schemes themselves are fun but perhaps not as clever as they could be. The second one probably needs a bigger payoff. Even so, the book offers pleasant entertainment that many modern readers, if they keep expectations fairly low, are likely to enjoy.