Small-town lawyer faces off against corrupt drug-company CEO.
Two plotlines run parallel for the first half of Thompson's debut novel. When hard-charging Houston attorney Luke Vaughan collapses during a closing argument, he knows it's time to make a change. The diagnosis is a perforated ulcer caused by stress, and the remedy a retreat from the big city to his hometown of San Marcos, Texas. There Luke can set up a private practice and spend more time with his teenage daughter Samantha, who reacts to the relocation with steely formality. Luke's wife Josie ran off long ago to find fame as a country singer in Nashville. Housekeeper Teresa has done the lion's share of parenting Samantha. In San Marcos, Luke quickly finds romance with Sue Ellen, a would-be flame from his high-school years, and an invaluable confidante in new housemate Wilson "Whizmo" Moore, a veteran African-American professor who rides a Harley. For Samantha, the road to reconciliation is rocky, including a stretch of alcoholism and flunking out of college, but with Luke's persistence and the love and support of her boyfriend Brad, she comes around. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., charismatic Dr. Alfred Kingsbury of Ceventa Pharmaceuticals is trying to fast-track his new drug Exxacia, despite evidence of its harmful side effects. He puts considerable effort into schmoozing his old friend Dr. Roger Boatwright, who now heads the FDA. All that seems to stand in Kingsbury's way is a righteous drug tester at Ceventa named Ryan Sinclair, who makes no secret of his opposition. Kingsbury wastes no time in intimidating Ryan, blowing up his car, for starters. Ryan's silence is enough to clear the way for Boatwright's approval of large-scale trials. When Samantha takes part in one of the trials, she develops severe liver problems, and Luke sues Ceventa. All he has on his side is the truth.
Derivative thriller, competently plotted but awkwardly written.