A compelling courtroom drama and a gritty, aromatic evocation of place, inspired by recent events. The debut novel by a British writer with nearly two decades of African experience explores the damage done by Westerners with the best of intentions: not conquering colonial officers this time, but the high-minded defenders of international justice.
Bereaved British lawyer Paula Shackleton has good reason to pine for obscurity. So when US law professor Stanton Peabody III unexpectedly offers her a job in the Red Sea capital of Lira, she accepts. Her boss, an eccentric African-American expert on international law with several ideological axes to grind, represents a Horn of Africa government at war with its neighbour over a poorly defined colonial border.
Shuttling between the sun-dazed mountain-top city of Lira and the Peace Palace in The Hague, the two lawyers argue their case before a panel of western judges. But even as Paula learns the tricks of Stanton's unusual trade, the friendships she forges in Lira with locals lead her to question the morality of working for an African government whose treatment of its own citizens becomes ever more brutal.