A well-constructed thriller/mystery with a relevant message. 3/5 stars.
Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
The blurb: Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita have worked in the same legal office for years. The sudden death of the firm’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge.
But the world has changed, and the women are watching this latest promotion for Ames differently.
This time, they’ve decided enough is enough.
Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand set in motion something catastrophic and unstoppable: lies will be uncovered, secrets will be exposed and not everyone will survive. All their lives – as women, colleagues, mothers, adversaries – will be changed for ever.
Whisper Network is a well-constructed mystery/thriller which feels very ‘now’ in that the plot revolves around issues of sexual harrassment in the workplace most recently brought to greater public attention by the #metoo and #timesup movements.
In this vein I thought the profession of the characters was a particularly canny choice: you’d think that if anyone would know how to deal with workplace harrassment it would be a group of highly-qualified lawyers. That these women face much the same barriers and ‘crap’ (conscious decision to use a fairly polite word there) upon entering and then once established in their profession makes you realise just how much the system is rigged against women no matter how high they manage to climb within it.
The characters are an interesting bunch and, while some of them aren’t entirely likeable, none of them are two dimensional. Instead they are all fallible and guilty of making several mistakes.
My main gripe with the book was I found it hard going for the first two thirds. The narrative jumps about in time between present-day witness statements and depositions, and then back to the events leading up to the death (not a spoiler – it’s mentioned in the blurb). With all this hopping about I started to tire of how long it was taking the past to catch up with the present. However, once there was no more time-hopping I was gripped to the end, even though I did see the big reveal coming (I thought the author had signposted it fairly clearly).
Another of Whisper Network’s more interesting messages is that while women may think we only need to watch our backs around men, one of the most toxic aspects of patriarchy is how it is so successful in turning women against each other. The most heated dislike in the narrative is reserved for the female characters who turn their backs on others or actively work against them. Touching on this point makes the story more complex (and realistic) than if all the characters at fault had been male.
Overall: an interesting mystery/thriller with a highly relevant message: while a great deal has been achieved by women in all fields, there is still a long way to go to true equality.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul