British lawyer Paula Shackle is mourning a lost love when a man in lemon-coloured suit accosts her over breakfast in a Boston hotel. Winston Peabody represents the African state of North Darrar, embroiled in a border arbitration case with its giant neighbour. He needs help with the hearing in The Hague, Paula needs to forget the past.
Paula flies to the state’s capital determined to lose herself in work, but soon discovers that even jobs taken with the purest intentions can involve moral compromise. Taking testimony in scorching refugee camps, delving into the colonial past, she becomes increasingly uneasy about her role. Budding friendships with a scarred former rebel and an idealistic young doctor whittle away at her pose of sardonic indifference, until Paula finds herself taking a step no decent lawyer could contemplate.
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