Review: The Herd by Andrea Bartz

As mystery/thrillers go, The Herd has an interesting premise.  Eleanor is a beautiful and successful woman who created The Herd, which is a woman-only workspace and social clique.  It’s basically a boy’s club without the boys.  Her three closest friends, Hana, Katie and Mikki, both work for her and semi-worship her, in what is clearly a relationship with boundary issues.  On the morning of a major business announcement, Eleanor disappears.

I found both the structure of the book and the writing a bit problematic.  The story is told alternating between Hana and Katie’s perspectives (Katie is Hana’s younger sister).  This way, the reader is seeing a lot of clues but no one character ever knows everything.  I often couldn’t tell who was narrating because I didn’t think either character had a distinct voice, and they often were telling about the same events and characters, just from a slightly different perspective.  I think if an author is going to alternate narrators, the voice of each narrator needs to feel really different.

I could say that part of the problem was they were sisters, so of course there were a lot of similarities, but I just read Claire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had, which is told from the perspectives of four sisters, two parents, and a few others, yet I was never once confused about who was talking.

Ultimately, I never felt sympathetic towards these two sisters, though their love/hate relationship was interesting at times.  Having three sisters myself, I love a good story about sisters, but again would direct you to Claire Lombardo’s book over this one.  I just didn’t find the characters really fleshed out.  For example, Hana is adopted and she raises issues occasionally about race, but those issues are always on the surface, never really explored.  Katie has a side story that felt like an add-on.  A lot of “big secrets” are thrown around to build suspense, without much resolution.  The male characters are also not well developed.

I thought some of the issues raised in this book about women-only spaces, male entitlement, and internet harassment were timely and interesting.  At its core the premise of this book is an interesting one, which is whether women should get ahead in the same way men have – by excluding others.  Is The Herd about networking and collaboration, or is it about cut-throat competition and elitism?

Readers looking for a fast-paced Clue-like whodunit, where everyone has secrets and anyone can be the culprit, will enjoy this book.  But readers looking for a character-driven thriller like those by Tana French, may be disappointed as I was.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and publisher Ballantine.  The book published March 24, 2020.

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