Now that they’ve established their credentials in Shanghai (The Risk Agent, 2012, etc.), John Knox and Grace Chu, of Rutherford Risk, go up against a coldblooded sweatshop owner in Amsterdam.
When you have as much money as philanthropist Graham Winston, and maybe political aspirations as well, you can direct your millions at any injustice you see, and what Winston sees, thanks to a blistering newspaper exposé by Sonia Pangarkar, is little girls knotting handmade rugs. Some of the pathetically underage workers, like Maja Sehovic, lead relatively normal second lives as schoolchildren; others, like Berna Ranatunga, are literally chained to their jobs. Winston hires private security firm Rutherford to shut down the knot shop Sonia profiled, and David Dulwich assigns the job to his friend John Knox and forensic accountant Grace Chu. It’s a lucky thing that Winston’s expense account is generous, since pretty much everything that could possibly go wrong does. Sonia would rather sleep with Knox than open up to him or introduce him to her sources, even when those sources ominously begin to disappear. The girls’ parents are no more eager to say anything that might endanger their daughters or compromise themselves. Gerhardt Kreiger, the middleman Knox contacts to put together a fictional purchasing deal that will give Knox more information about where the rugs are made, turns out to be playing a deeper game of his own. So is Chief Inspector Joshua Brower, who Dulwich assured Knox would be a reliable police contact. And whoever is behind the knot shop is cunning, determined and willing to use violence against Knox and Grace and anyone else who gets close to him.
Pearson plots resourcefully, and the complications are intelligently varied. The action is so nonstop, however, that long before the end, many readers will feel as exhausted, if nowhere near as battered, as Grace and Knox.