An all-too-believably routine mistake plunges a London corporate attorney’s life into unbelievable turmoil.
Even more than most rising juniors at Madison & Vere, Lewis Penn’s got a lot on his mind. He’s being pressed to take on new jobs with impossible deadlines; his latest girlfriend doesn’t want to see him again; and his brother Dan, stricken with multiple sclerosis since childhood, is dying in a Bristol hospice. So it’s no wonder that he arrives back at the office following a meeting with UKI, a Ukrainian mineral company that’s one of M&V’s major clients, having lost along the way the folder of confidential financial information he was supposed to review. Or has he really lost it? When some quick searches and a few phone calls don’t turn it up at the most likely places, Lewis wonders if he ever took the folder in the first place. Retracing his steps to UKI in a bravura sequence that shows just how little he remembers about the meeting, he finds the folder and makes off with it. As events soon disclose, however, his maneuver is much more a theft than he realized: UKI is now clearly missing a second folder, one that security chief Viktor Hadzewycz is so eager to retrieve that it might as well be radioactive. Too late, Lewis realizes he’s already copied the suspect folder and messengered it to M&V’s branch in Washington, from which his efforts to retrieve it will land him in trouble that will deepen and broaden until it involves not only the police on two continents but also, rather improbably, bedridden Dan.
For all Lewis’s sharply etched paranoia and panic, the irresistible premise of his plot is buried under a barrel of flashbacks, side trips, maundering, and dire hints whose import is never quite clear: a first novel that never lives up to its considerable promise.