With its heady mix of corporate wrongdoings, political scandals, family betrayals, blackmail, and murder, Sweat is a slow-burning thriller that relies largely on the strength of its characters to propel the story along. The plot itself is straightforward and familiar, borrowing from a number of standard scenarios, but the strong thread of morality and justice running through it all keeps the reader engaged beyond the page.
Jake is a responsible and upstanding young man, the kind of dutiful son who puts his education, his career, and his very life on hold for the sake of family. He's not perfect, and never come across as holier-than-though, which is why he works as a protagonist. More importantly, in a world of CEOs, senators, spies, billionaires, and sweatshop owners, he and his new girlfriend, Kate, serve to provide the reader with somebody they can identify.
Peter, Jake's absent father and CEO of Winthrop Enterprises, is the kind of selfish, arrogant, manipulative, amoral man to who nothing and no one is sacred. He's the kind of man you want desperately to hate, but he's so honest about his own shortcomings, so open about his motivations, that he demands a certain grudging acceptance. On the surface, Senator Day is a bit more human, and a bit more sympathetic, but he's no less despicable for being so opportunistic and ready to betray trusts both public and personal. As for Lee Chang, sweatshop manager, slave-runner, and whore-master, he's just about as stock as villains come. You can almost hear him chewing the scenery.
Gilleo knows how to set a scene, and has a flair for dialogue that manages to keep the cultural elements from being trite or blatantly stereotypical. I liked the fact that the emphasis is on the characters, on the human element of the story, as opposed to the gun-porn or techno-absurdity of others in the genre. An altogether solid read, and one with some real moments of excitement and intrigue.
Mark Gilleo holds a graduate degree in international business from the University of South Carolina and an undergraduate degree in business from George Mason University. He enjoys traveling, hiking and biking. He speaks Japanese. A fourth-generation Washingtonian, he currently resides in the D.C. area. His first two novels were recognized as finalist and semifinalist, respectively, in the William Faulkner-Wis- dom creative writing competition.