The Great Divide

T. Davis Bunn, Author Doubleday Books $19.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-385-49615-5

Redolent of the grits and fatback of the Carolina tobacco belt and heralded as the Christian Book Association's bestselling author's crossover to mainstream fiction, this cracking good thriller features Marcus Glenwood, an ex-high-rolling, hard-boozing young Raleigh, N.C., corporate attorney, who--down on his luck--has come home to nearby Rocky Mount to lick his wounds, and to lovingly restore his grandparents' house. Marcus has hardly unpacked when he is retained by the parents of Gloria Hall, a local black grad student at Georgetown University. Gloria has disappeared inside China while investigating slave labor practices at the infamous Factory 101, a manufacturing partnership with mega-international sportswear manufacturer New Horizons. Unwittingly, Marcus finds himself caught up in a game of ""don't blink"" legal chicken with spiteful old enemies from his former firm, which represents New Horizons. Professional envy, political chicanery at the highest (and lowest) levels, racial bigotry, bribery, international intrigue, socioeconomic exploitation (political pressure is brought to bear on a black female judge) and a romance between emotionally scarred lovers Marcus and Kirsten Standstead, Gloria's roommate-- all flesh out the novel as the young Quixote takes on the establishment in and out of the courtroom. Glossing over background data, the plot sometimes lacks credibility--Kirsten's psychological scarring is pure soap and Gloria's parents, a statistics professor and a dean at a local black college, are broadly sketched--and there is a tendency to play fast and loose with courtroom protocol. However, the theme of underdog vs. the system is seductive and there are enough plot twists to keep even the most unforgiving of critics turning pages. Major ad/promo; national author tour. (June)