BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Ghost Shift’: Thriller Reveals One Downside of Offshore Manufacturing

The Ghost ShiftREVIEWED BY DAVID M. KINCHEN
“Designed in California…Assembled in China” — Inscription on the white box for my Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer

* * *

Therein lies the problem for Poppy, a stand-in for Apple, based in Silicon Valley, CA: When you subcontract your manufacturing, you never know what’s going to happen, posits John Gapper in his new novel “The Ghost Shift” (Ballantine Books, 320 pages, $26.00).
It’s a techno thriller in the tradition of Martin Cruz Smith’s “Gorky Park”, where Tom Lockhart, a former CIA operative, now working for Henry Martin (read Steve Jobs), founder of Poppy (read Apple), is trying to find what happened to the Chinese girl he and his wife Margot adopted in 1989.

When the body of a woman is discovered in a fishpond near the manufacturing/trading city of Guangdong, once known as Canton, government operative Song Mei is startled to find that the young woman is her twin.

“This wasn’t just a body in a field. The corpse’s shape was hers—same length, same curves. Then she knew, and everything else receded to nothingness. All she could see was a woman with the same nose, the same eyes, and the same face.

“Her twin.”

* * *

As a rising star agent of the Commission for Discipline Inspection, Song Mei probes political corruption, not mysterious deaths. But that changes when she arrives on the scene of a grim police investigation and is confronted with a crime—and a victim—impossible to ignore. Despite strict orders and threats from superiors, Mei knows she can not turn away.

She eventually joins forces with Tom Lockhart and uncovers the secretive “Ghost Shift” in the factory that assembles Poppy products. I won’t reveal the details of this spoiler, but Gapper creates a scenario that could be real…a fatal flaw in the offshore manufacturing process.

Gapper has clearly done his research, as befits the financial journalist he is. This novel, Gapper’s second, after “A Fatal Debt”, is a gripping page turner.

John Gapper
About the author

John Gapper is the author of the suspense novel A Fatal Debt, as well as these works of nonfiction: How to Be a Rogue Trader and All That Glitters, a book about the collapse of Barings Bank in 1995. He is chief business columnist and an associate editor of the Financial Times. He also has a blog on which he comments on business news. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Exeter College, Oxford University, and won a Harkness Fellowship to study at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.

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