Title: Made in China
Author: Mark Reutlinger
Genre: Political thriller
In an alternative 2020 ominously close to reality, America is outsourcing virtually all its manufacturing, most of it to China. We depend on them for almost everything we buy and sell; without them, our economy would collapse. That dependence threatens to become fatal when economic war is declared on America by a hostile Chinese government and all products made in China suddenly disappear, cut off at their source.
Seattle-based systems engineer Jack Conway finds himself the point man for America’s response to China’s embargo. His new position puts him and the woman he loves in extreme danger, as they become the targets of hired hit men in a deadly game of industrial espionage and international intrigue. These ruthless killers will stop at nothing to protect the Chinese government’s agenda. Meanwhile, America faces its greatest challenge since World War II: the revival of the nation’s moribund factories and industries.
First published in 2012, Made in China is even more relevant today than it was then.
The slender Asian man paused at the top of the stairs, fumbling in his coat pocket for a cigarette. His suit jacket hung on him loosely, his slight build seldom filling out the clothes he bought. Finally he found the packet he was looking for and almost angrily pulled it free. Back home in Beijing, no one was forced to leave the building just to smoke a cigarette, but here in America—
He looked up when he heard the door open behind him. Was he to be joined by another smoker, another victim of America’s obsession with health and “wellness,” a term that was not even found in his dog-eared English–Chinese dictionary? He turned to see who was behind him.
“Oh. Are you—?”
And that was as much as he managed to say before he saw what the man with the briefcase had come to do. And once he had seen, it was too late to react. Instinctively he turned his face away just as the heavy metal sap—wielded expertly, as a golfer would swing a five iron—collided with his skull. He made no sound as he collapsed like so much loose linen onto the hard surface of the stairway.
His body rolled downward in a bumpy, uneven rotation, making two or three revolutions as it struck stair after stair. He came to rest, in a most unnatural-looking position, on the landing below, his legs splayed out like broken spokes of a wheel. Close behind followed a trail of white cigarettes, some still rolling toward him, as if to offer themselves as comfort at this time of need.
And just behind them came the man with the briefcase, which once again concealed his weapon. He stopped and looked down to examine his handiwork, considered himself satisfied, and turned to leave. Then, having a second thought, he bent over, picked up one of the scattered cigarettes, examined it for a moment, and rose. Drawing a lighter from his pocket, he lit the cigarette, an excellent Chinese blend. He gave the little man’s body an extra kick for good measure, and then he continued on his way.
. . .
Jason’s office was on the fifth floor. As Jack descended toward the fourth, he began to whistle, less for amusement than to assert to himself his satisfaction with his decision to decline the salesman position. But the echo in the barren stairwell made whistling more painful to his ears than pleasant to his mind, so he stopped and proceeded silently past the door to the fourth floor. As he rounded the turn and began his descent toward the third floor, he saw it.
There in the corner of the landing between floors four and three was what at first glance appeared to be a pile of dark clothing, but it quickly revealed itself to be the crumpled body of a man. It looked like he had fallen down the stairs from the fourth-floor landing, although if so, it was not clear how he had ended up in quite that position on the landing below.
. . . .
Chen opened his lips, and at first no sound came out. He apparently was trying to form words but could not make the necessary sounds. Then he seemed to make a second and greater effort. He was barely more than whispering, but he was definitely saying something. Jack turned his head so that his left ear was close to Chen’s mouth and listened carefully. Fortunately, there were no competing sounds in the deserted stairwell. Chen grasped Jack’s hand in both of his and held onto it as he spoke. As best Jack could make it out, Chen spoke three short phrases—in very heavily accented English—separated by long, gasping pauses to catch his breath, before he again lapsed into unconsciousness. With each phrase, he squeezed Jack’s hand, as if imploring him. What Jack thought he heard was: “Agents of government … don’t let them …”
“Lee—” (Jack could not make out the rest of the word or phrase.)
And finally: “Find … my … brother!”
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Made in China is not just a fast-paced political thriller and a story of love in the midst of extreme danger, but it is based on a “what if” scenario that has, unfortunately, become all too real in our world. We seem to be continually on the brink of trade war with China, and our dependence on foreign suppliers of goods, including hard goods, technology, and pharmaceuticals, is at best problematic and potentially disastrous. Made in China
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MARK REUTLINGER, Professor of Law Emeritus at Seattle University, is the author of the “Mrs. Kaplan” cozy mystery series (Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death, Oy Vey, Maria! (coming October 27), and A Pain in the Tuchis (coming January 12)), the political thriller Sister-in-Law: Violation, Seduction, and the President of the United States (under the pseudonym M. R. Morgan), and the caper mystery Murder with Strings Attached. He and his wife, Analee, live in University Place, Washington.
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