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Habitual overwriting and plot devices that defy credibility ruin the scattered pleasures of this political/courtroom thriller by the usually dependable Bunn (Closing Costs, 1990, etc.).

While researching labor practices in the Guangzho Province of China, Gloria Hall, a student at Georgetown, is arrested. Not only is she beaten, but she’s forced to work in the notorious Factory 101. Bunn writes this, unfortunately, without even acknowledging the possibility that a US citizen might be missed, causing an international incident that would drive CNN wild. Moreover, when Gloria is forced to read a televised statement, the direness of her situation—and she’s obviously under duress—seems to stir only her parents, Austin and Alma Hall, of North Carolina. They hire the near-catatonically depressed attorney Marcus Glenwood, who’s suffering from the guilt and trauma of an auto accident that killed his two children, while his wife and her wealthy family have hired his former colleagues at Knowles, Barbour and Bradshaw to handle the ensuing divorce. But Marcus’s archenemies Logan Kendall, who replaced him, and Suzie Rikkers, whom Marcus once tried to have fired, are the least of his problems. New Horizons, the multinational sports equipment conglomerate that owns Factory 101, is based in North Carolina. The conglomerate, too, hires Logan and the gang to battle the hapless Marcus. On his side are an elderly church deacon, his secretary Netty, and the bad-tempered, contentious Kirsten Stanstead, Gloria’s roommate at Georgetown. In a preposterous scene à la TV-movie, Marcus drops by New Horizons headquarters for the first time; he tries to ask a few questions; they respond, immediately, by trying to kill him, smashing his Blazer with pickup trucks. He doesn’t bother to go to the cops; that, natch, would do no good.

Implausibilities, stock types, plodding courtroom drama: a disappointing return.

Pub Date: June 20th, 2000
ISBN: 0-385-49615-X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2000


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