From the usually thought-provoking, even disturbing, Banks (A Song of Stone, 1998, etc.) comes a clever, well-paced, but surprisingly slight business thriller.
Kathryn Telman, smart, beautiful, competent, is a Level Three executive in The Business—a vast, shadowy, international network of business concerns that predates Christianity and has been accumulating wealth and power ever since. Avoiding direct political power (brief ownership of the Roman Empire taught them a lesson they’ve not forgotten), the organization has remained a largely neutral presence in world affairs; though profits and self-interest come before the commonweal, those interests coincide often enough with society’s that good-hearted, moral Kathryn can pursue money and career without guilt. Plucked from a Scottish slum as a child, Kathryn received a world-class, Business-financed education and went on to become a high-tech expert, making extremely profitable calls on Microsoft, etc, that brought rapid promotions. Despite being in love with a faithfully married colleague, Kathryn accepts some of the many propositions that come her way, but has consistently declined those of smitten Suvinder Dzung, Prince of Thulahn, a small Himalayan nation. When some Level Ones—multibillionaire, policy-level executives—decide to flout tradition and secure themselves a seat in the United Nations by buying out Thulahn, Kathryn is asked to take up residence to represent them. The Prince proposes, part of the Level One plan to control the country. She declines, but falls in love with the country (the loss of place in modern life resounds throughout here). When she uncovers a Level One plot to take advantage of the Thulahnese, though, she exposes the malefactor to his colleagues, and then marries the prince, to keep a watchful and protective eye on the nation.
Sprinkled with erudite puns (“Was I a Freudian? . . . no, I was a Schadenfreudian”) and topical references: a smart, breezy, entertainment—something John Grisham might have written if, say, he were a better stylist with more imagination.