First edition cover
Published in English
|Media type||Hardcover, paperback|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 21|
|LC Class||PS3557.R5355 P35 1997|
Patrick Lanigan, a junior partner in a law firm in Biloxi, Mississippi, gets wind of a plan masterminded by shipbuilding magnate Benny Aricia to defraud the U.S. government through an overcharging scheme. His firm is deeply involved in the scam and stands to gain $30 million, yet plans to keep Patrick from sharing the profits. He bides his time, secretly collecting evidence. He knows that simply stealing the money and running won't work, so he feigns his own death in an automobile accident. When the body is found, it is identified as Patrick, though it is badly burned, and subsequently cremated. Patrick watches his own funeral from a safe distance. His wife Trudy received $2.5 million in life insurance.
Although he pretended not to know, Trudy had been cheating on him throughout their marriage, and his daughter was the result of that relationship.
Six weeks later, $90 million vanishes from the law firm's off-shore bank account. The associates know that only an insider had the knowledge to pull it off and eventually they start wondering if Patrick is really dead after all. Without the money, the associates and Benny Aricia are in deep financial trouble. Benny hires specialist Jack Stephano to track down Patrick.
Over four years later, Patrick is finally discovered living a new life in Ponta Porã, Brazil, a small town on the border of Paraguay under the name Danilo Silva. His girlfriend is Brazilian lawyer Eva Miranda. Patrick is kidnapped and tortured by thugs hired by Jack Stephano. They try to get him to reveal the location of the money, which, conveniently, Lanigan doesn't know. Before he is tortured more or even killed the FBI intervenes, tipped off by Eva. The FBI leans on Jack Stephano to hand over the fugitive and Patrick is repatriated. After arriving back in Biloxi in custody of the FBI, a series of legal battles ensue.
The insurance companies Monarch-Sierra and Northern Case Mutual that paid $2.5 million to Trudy, who has subsequently been a complete spendthrift as well as openly resuming her once-adulterous relationship, immediately sue and block access to the insurance money. Trudy is now in a difficult position, as she can no longer afford even the most basic trappings of her extravagant lifestyle. She sues Patrick for divorce, in hopes of receiving some financial compensation. The federal government sues Patrick for theft and fraud on charges of stealing the $90 million. The state charges Patrick with murder, because a dead body was found in Patrick's car.
One by one he defeats his opponents. He defeats the insurance companies by revealing that they colluded with Benny Aricia to find and torture Patrick. Confronted with this, they agree to let Trudy keep the insurance money, which satisfies her as well. He convinces the federal government by revealing that Benny Aricia defrauded them. Finally he defeats the state lawsuit by revealing that he didn't murder anyone. The body he used was that of a former client of his, who had already died from natural causes. He makes a deal with the federal government to pay back all the money he stole, plus interest. In the years that he was on the run he had instructed Eva to invest the money. Even after his debts are paid, there are still millions left. In the end, however, Patrick is defeated by his own clever scheme. As he knew he would be tortured if he was found, he gave Eva control over the bank accounts. When he goes to their pre-arranged rendezvous she does not show up. Finally he realizes that she has betrayed him, and that he will never find her (because he himself taught her how to disappear). Penniless and broken, he heads back to his home in Brazil.