“A blatant page-turner… I guarantee you will hate reaching the end.” – Sunday Express
- What should a company’s billionaire owner do when ordered by court to pay a grieving widow a total of 41 million in damages? Why, buy over the juridical system, of course.
The jury finds Krane Chemical Corporation guilty of water contamination, contamination that caused the death of Chad and Pete Baker, husband and son of plaintiff Jeanette Baker.
Not just the death of this father and son pair, we learn. As the book progress, we discover that the fictional Bowmore of Cary County is cleverly nicknamed “Cancer County”, and not for lack of substantiation. In fact, the cancer rate in Bowmore is 15 times the national average. (Pg 32)
And the people of Bowmore blame Krane Chemical Corporation for illegal chemical dumping, polluting their water, and ultimately, killing countless innocent lives.
And we learn that Krane Chemical is indeed guilty on all counts.
“Ratzlaff had a memo under lock and key. It was eight years old and had been prepared under his supervision. It ran for a hundred pages and described in gruesome detail the company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste at the Bowmore plant. It summarised the company’s elaborate efforts to hide the dumping, to dupe the Environmental Protection Agency, and to buy off the politicians at the local, state, and federal level. It recommended a clandestine but effective cleanup of the waste site, at a cost of some $50 million. It begged anyone who read it to stop the dumping.” (Pg 25)
In other words, shameless and calculated abuse- blatant negligence.
And yet, Mr. Trudeau, billionaire owner of Krane Chemical Corporation, vowed that “not a dime of (their) hard-earned profits will ever get into the hands of those trailer park peasants (residents of Bowmore and casualties of irresponsible chemical dumping).” (Pg 26)
- This fictional tale is a reflection of real world events, or so I gather, reestablishing my suspicions about this wicked and crooked world.
THE RICH AND POWERFUL EXPLOIT THE POOR AND HELPLESS
- Mr. Trudeau’s driver, Toliver, chauffeurs him with his black Bently to his Central Park penthouse worth $28 million, $38 million if you include the additional interior work.
His trophy wife is perched in her dressing room of the master suite while hairdressers fix her $1000 hairdo.
Draped on her size 2 physique (achieved with a daily routine of an hour with a trainer- $300 per, a hour of private yoga- $300 per and an hour with a nutritionist- $200 per) is a $25,000 Valentino dress. (Pg 33-36)
Oh, and she’s eyeing Abused Imelda, an intriguing piece of “art” that Mr. Trudeau eventually does purchase for $18 million (Pg 63).
- In other words, the Trudeaus are not exactly lacking financially.
- On the other hand, the Paytons- the husband and wife lawyer team that dare sue Krane Chemical Corporation- live in a 3 bedroom apartment of an old complex, and at least 4 months behind with rent (Pg 46-47). They own a “battered Ford Taurus with a million miles, at least one low tire, and constant click of a sticking valve” (Pg 19). Life was once financially liberating, but then this Baker case with Krane Chemicals sucked away their BMW, the Jaguar, the credit cards, their house… Eventually they took a bank loan of $400,000 to finance the case.
- For the Paytons, money is tight, and every dollar matters.
- And legal battles require money.
- So when the Paytons manage an impressive win over Krane Chemicals, Trudeau appeals to the Supreme Court, then pull every dirty trick in the book to ensure a heavy tip in his favour.
- Firstly, he’s aware of the Paytons’ fragile monetary position, that a slight jolt will send them down bankrupt-street. And push, he does, buying over the Paytons’ bank- with his mountain of cash.
- Next, why take a chance with wild cards like random Supreme Court judges, when you can rig the judicial election, strategically place a friendly judge, then sway the final verdict to your advantage, all for only $8 million.
RELIGION IS A CONVENIENT POLITICAL MANIPULATION TOOL
Ron Fisk is a small town lawyer from Brookhaven, Mississippi. Fits the good Christian mould perfectly, we gather, and ideal choice for Supreme Court judge candidate in conservative Mississippi.
The idea of running for judge is pitched to him by a low profile yet highly effective firm called Troy-Hogan, who are in the business of “reforming courts”.
“… That’s what we do, and we do it very quietly. When our clients need help, we target a supreme court justice who is not particularly friendly, and we take him, or her, out of the picture.” (Pg 117)
In the case of Krane Chemicals, at a price of $8 million, they place in the supreme court a judge that is willing to protect corporate liability at all cost. One that would vote in favour of overturning the $41 million dollar jury verdict, freeing Krane Chemicals of their lawsuit.
They already have a target- Judge Sheila McCarthy. They will replace her on the supreme court with one of their own. All they need now is a candidate.
And an angle- religious values.
Unaware that he was meant as a pawn in a bigger game, Ron bites the bait. “… change the judicial landscape of this country. And if we do that, we can protect the rights of the unborn, restrict the cultural barrage that is consumed by our children, honour the sanctity of marriage, keep homosexuals out of our classrooms, fight off the gun-control advocates, seal our borders, and protect the true American way of life,” (Pg 152). In other words, a series of religious-aligned jargon.
Ron is convinced. He will run for supreme court member to uphold Christian values at the juridical level.
And play the religious cards, he does, with his campaign manager as a conductor. He kicks off his campaign at the pulpit of the church he worships. “I seek to serve on the supreme court because I cherish the values that we share. Values based on the bible and our faith in Christ. The sanctity of the family- man and woman. The sanctity of life… I am frustrated by the erosion of our values. They are under attack by our society, by our depraved culture, and… by our courts. I offer my candidacy as one man’s fight against liberal judges…” (Pg 277)
Of course they advertise his opponent, Judge Sheila McCarthy as a liberal (although she is not).
And the churches rally firmly behind him, completely oblivious to the corporate interest of Ron’s puppet masters.
The Christian support is obvious. At a political rally, his supporters hang huge ‘Save The Family’ banners, an attestation to Ron’s primary selling point.
The event begins with a prayer (religious), followed by gospel songs (also religious), and more sermons (very religious). And repeat. (Pg 421-422)
Pastor Denny Ott (pastor to many of the cancer victims) tries to warn Pastor Ted of the danger of endorsing a political candidate, given their status as a non-profit organisation (church). “Mr. Fisk is being used by a conspiracy of big business interests to stack our supreme court with judges who will protect corporate wrongdoers by limiting their liability,” he writes in a letter. (Pg 414)
Yet, blinded by religious convictions, they are unable to see past the marketed package (Christian judge) to the manipulative forces behind. They are unable to separate church and state.
GOOD DOES NOT ALWAYS OVERCOME EVIL
- This book has one certainty- the good and evil.
- Unlike books that reveal both the light and dark of its characters, John Grisham’s figures belong to either extremes of the good vs. evil spectrum.
The Paytons are good; Mr Trudeau and Krane Chemicals are evil.
Pastor Denny Ott is good; Pastor Ted is evil.
The people of Bowmore are good; The employees of Troy-Hogan are evil.
Other than Ron Fisk, who has pure intentions, but plays devil’s advocate to the evil Trudeau’s cause, the antagonists of the story are obvious.
The Paytons (good) fought with everything they had, putting at stake their finances, their firm, their family, their reputation, in an effort to liberate the oppressed people of Bowmore (good).
But Krane Chemicals (bad) couldn’t care less about the cancer clusters, the dying people, the pain, the suffering… all that matters is money.
And fight justice with money, they do.
Good loses. Evil wins.
- Mr. Trudeau gets his wish. Not a cent is paid to lawyer or plaintiff.