Five Star Fraud
by Margaret G. Cahill

"It took nine pages to spell out the terms of employment at this company?"

Neil and Bridget Landers move to North Carolina. He is to begin as Director of Research at G.B. Polymers, she to begin a career in social work. Neil's first days are flavored with the foreshadowing of his bosses' attitudes. He is expected to sign a "non-compete clause," which would prevent his working for any competitive firms for several years, and his kind "Trekkie" assistant, Tom, hints at many victims of the top executives–former employees who were displeased the brass and were fired. All of this becomes real for Neil in small ways. He encounters one woman who has been fired and another whose husband committed suicide after being fired from G.B. Polymers and subsequently unable to find work.

Neil discovers that the company is allowing large amounts of toxins into its products and is selling them illegally. He reports his findings to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Shortly afterwards Neil is fired and smeared by his former employers. He and Bridget experience the frustrations of his unfairly besmirched reputation and lengthy unemployment. Thankfully, breakthroughs follow.

Cahill writes a considerable portion of the novel in dialogue, which contributes to the feelings of haste and secrecy that pervade much of the story. The unusually short chapters give the story an episodic feeling, so that the reader experiences Neil's and Bridget's turmoil much as they do. Five Star Fraud describes the traumas of institutional lying and unemployment as they affect individuals. The author takes a not-uncommon situation and makes it real via a couple who, as is mentioned several times, want to do the right thing.

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