Gloria Hall has gone missing in China, where she went to investigate and expose slave labor conditions. The prison camp she ends up in is a factory for a big American corporation. Marcus Glenwood is a formerly successful corporate lawyer who has retreated to a house on the wrong side of the tracks after an auto accident in which his two small children are killed. Gloria's sacrifice and Marcus's redemption are the larger themes of this moving and engrossing novel of international trade practices and personal salvation.
Marcus agrees to represent Gloria's parents in a legal battle to hold New Horizons, the world's largest manufacturer of sports shoes and athletic gear, accountable for the disappearance of their daughter. But his investigation is hampered from the beginning by his former colleagues, who represent New Horizons, and by powerful lobbyists and associates of the Chinese government, who will not hesitate to use any means possible--including murder--to keep their gruesome practices a secret. With his resources limited to a canny retired judge and the mysterious woman who was Gloria's closest friend, Marcus sets out on a David and Goliath-like battle against a mighty corporation with powerful political backers and corrupt trading partners determined to stop him.
In the wake of increasing political protest against the abuse of workers in third world countries who manufacture goods sold by American companies, the outlines of Bunn's plot are particularly timely. The theme of the burned-out lawyer taking on a mighty corporation and its anything-for-a-win legal minions, however, has been used by many others, most notably John Grisham, for nearly a decade. What makes this novel exceptionally powerful is its deep spiritual core. The scene in which Marcus painfully relives the accident that shattered his world and confronts the loving presence of the only force that can absolve his guilt and heal his soul is remarkable: "There within the church the shadow formed more clearly still, gliding on slippered feet. The shroud it carried wrapped him up so tightly that Marcus felt his hold on the church and the comforting noise slip away until he could scarcely hear anything save the frantic beating of his terrified heart. He sat there, trapped and helpless to do anything save observe the approach of his own eternal night." The secondary characters are as well drawn as the protagonists, and Bunn's writing has moments of real beauty and clarity. While the plot doesn't move as quickly as it might, and the sympathetic judge who presides over the courtroom leaves herself wide open to appellate review, neither detracts from the powerful resonance of this well written novel. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Redolent of the grits and fatback of the Carolina tobacco belt and heralded as the Christian Book Association's bestselling author's crossover to mainstream fiction, this cracking good thriller features Marcus Glenwood, an ex-high-rolling, hard-boozing young Raleigh, N.C., corporate attorney, who--down on his luck--has come home to nearby Rocky Mount to lick his wounds, and to lovingly restore his grandparents' house. Marcus has hardly unpacked when he is retained by the parents of Gloria Hall, a local black grad student at Georgetown University. Gloria has disappeared inside China while investigating slave labor practices at the infamous Factory 101, a manufacturing partnership with mega-international sportswear manufacturer New Horizons. Unwittingly, Marcus finds himself caught up in a game of "don't blink" legal chicken with spiteful old enemies from his former firm, which represents New Horizons. Professional envy, political chicanery at the highest (and lowest) levels, racial bigotry, bribery, international intrigue, socioeconomic exploitation (political pressure is brought to bear on a black female judge) and a romance between emotionally scarred lovers Marcus and Kirsten Standstead, Gloria's roommate-- all flesh out the novel as the young Quixote takes on the establishment in and out of the courtroom. Glossing over background data, the plot sometimes lacks credibility--Kirsten's psychological scarring is pure soap and Gloria's parents, a statistics professor and a dean at a local black college, are broadly sketched--and there is a tendency to play fast and loose with courtroom protocol. However, the theme of underdog vs. the system is seductive and there are enough plot twists to keep even the most unforgiving of critics turning pages. Major ad/promo; national author tour. (June)
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