St Martin’s Press, pub date August 14th 2018
Apparently this is the sixth outing in a bestselling series featuring Mary Di Nunzio, a partner in an all-women Philadelphia law firm. The blurb intrigued me, as it features a reverse discrimination case: three young male lawyers claim they were not hired because they were men. Plus any series featuring a group of hard-hitting strong women has got to be a winner.
The story is a fast-moving, brisk read. At first I was not especially drawn in: the writing style is simple and lacks flavor. The story is told plainly, the writing an unadorned dull vehicle for getting the story out there. If you’re looking for nuance, rich imagery or colour – this is not the place.
The strongest moments, those which do jump off the page, are when Mary is with her extended Italian family in South Philly. Then you do get some sense of the strong local scene, its dialects and food and family-based culture.
The story itself is gripping: an old unscrupulous opponent manufactures a lawsuit against Mary and friends, for which as it turns out he has ulterior motives beyond simple antipathy/revenge. And then their only male associate is murdered, which seems to put them in a highly suspicious position.
The legal aspects and the twists and turns are well-handled in traditional thriller style. Despite the promise of the initial hook, there isn’t much meat here in terms of the hypocrisy of launching a suit of this kind; the reverse discrimination suit is explored (briefly) via the “but we don’t! We’re equal opportunity…” route, fairly superficially.
Plus the final denouement is not entirely satisfactory. The surprise villain of the piece is a little too much of a surprise: insufficient motive, realistically, compared to the frontrunner up till then. His action is justified by a slightly bizarre descent into mania and rage, not even hinted at and not especially consistent with the character.
The ages, also, seem a little off. Mary’s parents are in their eighties? But she is just having a baby, her first… But then celebs are doing it (Janet Jackson 49; Rachel Weisz 48; Brigitte Nielsen 54), so maybe it’s not so extraordinary.
The story is undoubtedly gripping, and the main character engaging and highly sympathetic. The knowledge of the legal system that underpins the story seems reassuringly confident. Feared is an enjoyable light read, but misses the opportunity to be so much more.