Her, Too by Bonnie Kistler

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Her, Too by Bonnie Kistler front cover

Perhaps inevitably, the #MeToo movement would uncover complicated situations that go beyond simply punishing sexual predators – which is hardly a simple matter itself – and in Bonnie Kistler’s new thriller, Her, Too, the author reveals a bundle of them.

When the story opens, Boston-based defense attorney Kelly McCann has just won a major case in Philadelphia. She has been defending scientist George Carlson Benedict – the beloved Dr George – a pharmaceutical researcher whose discoveries related to Alzheimer’s disease have put him on the short list for a Nobel Prize in medicine. Could such a valuable and visible member of society be guilty of raping a subordinate?

In the trial just concluded, his former colleague Reeza Patel said yes. And so did three other women silenced by Kelly with payoffs and non-disclosure agreements. Benedict is kind of a toad, really, but Kelly doesn’t consider him an actual rapist, until he attacks his next victim – and that happens to be her.

Kelly sets out to get revenge. And she knows who can help. The three women who signed the NDAs, except for the fact that they hate her. But they reluctantly go along with Kellys plan.

The story certainly lays bare the manipulative and inequitable way NDAs are handled. A former executive at Benedict’s pharma company received over $1 million; the office cleaner received $20,000 and the third woman was so traumatised by the experience, she let her husband do all the negotiating. Kelly decides not to involve Reeza Patel in the group’s sketchy plan – the way Kelly eviscerated her on the witness stand is just too recent. But soon, there’s no decision to make. Patel dies from a drug overdose.

Kelly has a strong team back at the office, including her charming investigator, Javier. He’s one of those guys who knows a guy. And if he doesn’t, he knows a guy who knows a guy. And Javier’s guys say Patel’s death was not a suicide, but yet, her oxycontin blood levels were many times a therapeutic level. Might this mysterious death actually simplify Kelly’s plot against Benedict? At least spare her the reminders of how badly she went wrong? Maybe, but not when one of Kelly’s trio of reluctant cooperators also turns up dead.

You might think Kelly is a pretty unlikeable character who has been taking advantage of women at their most vulnerable. She’s made a career of defending sexual predators, after all. But the experience with Benedict makes her reexamine everything. The author takes pains to be sure Kelly doesn’t come across as a monster. She has children and a husband, Alan, who’s been in a coma for a decade, ever since a stroke. His body is alive, but only her conviction and love tell her his mind is still there. The lengths to which she’s gone to arrange good care for him at home, the way she continues to talk to him and protect him – all that shows a different side of her. So it isn’t a surprise that she plans to fight her stepdaughter’s move to gain custody of Alan so she can let him die at last. This aspect of the story also raises important issues about care, caring and letting go. The author tackles a big subject here, but she doesn’t shrink from it.

The deaths of Benedict’s victims swirl closer and closer to her, forcing Kelly to think about the risks not just to her remaining allies, but to herself and her family. At first she is concerned that the video of her rape will get out and damage her reputation and career. As the story progresses, the risk becomes a deadly one.

Early on, she finds an unexpected ally in news reporter Rick Olsson… or does she? She suspects he’s just after a story, then figures out a way she can use him, then suspects he has figured out that Benedict raped her, then she isn’t quite sure what to think.

In so many ways, the Kelly McCann you meet on page one of this book is not the same person you leave on page 304. It’s an exciting, fast-paced journey. Take it with her as she works her way through some of the most consequential social issues of our times.

Bonnie Kistler is a former trial lawyer whose previous books were The Cage (Seven Minutes Later) and House on Fire.

Also see Predator by Zoe Caldwell or The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon.


CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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