“Whisper Network” by Chandler Baker

Genre:  Women’s Fiction/Legal Thriller Whisper Network
Publisher:  Flatiron Books
Publication Date:  July 2, 2019

I like to read one summer thriller each year.  This one caught my eye since the book’s blurb reads like “Big Little Lies” in the #MeToo movement.   I thoroughly enjoyed “Lies,” so I figured I’d give “Whisper Network” a try.  A glimpse at the back cover is enough to drive home the many similarities between the two books.  Once again, three very rich longtime female friends befriend a younger woman and she becomes part of their inner circle.  This time the women are not stay-at-home moms but high powered attorneys.  This is where #MeToo comes into the story.  Rather than a sexually abusive husband as the bad guy, there is a sexually abusive boss.  All four women are afraid they will lose their jobs if they complain.   Like the husband from “Lies,” the boss dies under mysterious circumstances. Once more, the women are suspects.  And so, the legal thriller begins.  As long as you go in aware of the strong resemblance between the novels you will enjoy “Network” as I did.

One character in this novel has such well-described physical and personality traits as another from “Lies” that I could see Reese Witherspoon’s face as she portrayed the role in the “Lies” TV series.  In the author’s notes, she explains that when she was a young summer associate at a law firm she experienced male harassment by the much older and well-established lawyers who worked at the firm.   In Baker’s actual life, it was the older women in the firm with more skill in handling such instances who came to her rescue.  She said the Witherspoon-like character was actually a real-life person from that summer.  I felt a bit more respect for the author.   She wasn’t just copycatting a character from “Lies.”

The only issue I had with the book is that the author seems to be beating the reader over the head with the novel’s message of how women must stand together against badly behaving men.   At times, it feels like she is giving us females a sermon on the unfair treatment of women in the working world.  Unlike an author such as Joyce Carol Oats—who frequently writes about sexually abused women—the violence in “Network” reads as sensationalized rather than nuanced, which can carry a harder punch.   But, then again, not all authors have almost 60, usually award-winning novels under their belt.   Although Baker pours her heart out with her feminist cry (I could almost hear Helen Reddy singing “I am woman, hear me roar”) this is still basically a beach read with a moral.  I grant you a very entertaining beach read that preferably should be read while sitting on a pool or lawn chair with a glass of chilled wine in your hand.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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