The Great Divide

The Great Divide

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So begins a fascinating book that is well-written and suspenseful almost from cover to cover. Marcus Glenwood was a senior partner with a large North Carolina law firm when a tragic accident caused the death of his children and resulted in the breakup of his marriage. He left the firm under a cloud so thick that an associate from his former firm represents his wife in the divorce proceedings as one of his former partners looks on, enjoying the show. Suzie Rikkers and Logan Kendall each have deep-seated resentments against Marcus because of his role in their failure to advance in the large firm.

The deep-seated resentments result in Kendall and Rikkers taking on the defense of New Horizons after Marcus files the lawsuit against New Horizons that is central to the novel. Gloria Hall's parents have gone to other lawyers for help in getting back their daughter from a manufacturing plant in China where she disappeared while investigating New Horizons. The other lawyers told them there was no case against New Horizons.

Gloria had been gathering information against New Horizons because she perceived a real problem with its labor practices. She traced problems to Factory 101 located in the Guangdong Province of China. Her concern was that Factory 101 was really a sweatshop akin to a prison. As she tries to talk to workers outside the factory's gates, she is kidnapped and taken inside.

Alma and Austin Hall receive a videotape showing their daughter in captivity and seek legal assistance, first from a lawyer at a large firm in Raleigh, N.C., and then from Marcus. He is reluctant to take the case but proceeds to investigate the claims made against New Horizons. He is assaulted by employees of New Horizons during his investigation and the information he gathers leads him to take the case. All the while, Marcus believes he has no winnable case but hopes bringing the lawsuit will put enough pressure on New Horizons to cause Gloria's release.

Rikkers and Logan are hired by New Horizons because of their personal dislike for Marcus, and the hardball, underhanded legal strategies begin. The progress of the lawsuit is fascinating because it is clear the author does not know federal legal procedure at all.

The story is not flawed, however, unless the reader is familiar with the procedural niceties of federal courts. "Objection. Belaboring the witness." is an example of the language used at the trial before the federal court in North Carolina. Perhaps it is not unusual to some readers but in more than 20 years of practicing law, I have never heard such language as "belaboring the witness" used in raising an objection.

Consider this as well. The lawsuit is filed and a hearing before a federal magistrate occurs two days later on the motion of the defendants to dismiss the case. In reality, a hearing on a motion to dismiss would not take place so quickly. The case goes to trial on an equally unrealistic schedule.

The story, the mystery behind New Horizons, is compelling despite minor flaws in the legal technicalities. It pushes a number of buttons, such as the main character's struggle with the death of his children and lack of confidence to practice law afterwards, the antagonism of two former colleagues who are nasty people, the intrigue of New Horizons' efforts to stop the trial, and the surprise ending.

There is even some romance through a strange relationship Marcus has with Kirsten Stanstead, Gloria Hall's former roommate. Kirsten is a high-strung, enigmatic but beautiful woman who keeps Marcus at arm's length for most of the book. Yet he is strongly attracted, and a relationship develops from acquaintance to friend to more.

Additional characters bring depth to the story, shedding light on who Marcus Glenwood is. By the time the story is through, the reader will know him well. He becomes real and, by association, so does the story.

What happens to Gloria in the end? That is the ultimate mystery. Does Marcus win the lawsuit and solve all his personal problems? Are the bad guys vanquished? Take a look for yourself. One thing is certain: When you start reading, there is no great divide between you and the book until you finish.

Journal Date: 
Thursday, February 1, 2001