In my lady murder book club, we are always looking for the hottest new thriller to read. While we really want to read just murder books, we are also open to more of the thriller variety. But lately, we have been looking for thrillers/murder books that are written by POC. To say that the POC pool for thrillers is scant would be an understatement.
We have been looking for months and nothing has been popping up on our radar—-until this book! We were so excited to see this book when it was pitched to me last summer. We decided in July that it would be our November book to read and we couldn’t wait to check out this debut thriller even if it sounded more like a courtroom drama (the main character is a lawyer) but as a group we were all really committed to reading this one.
We expected this book to have a lot to discuss when we were done especially about race in the workplace. One of our book club members is black and her and I also work together so I was especially eager to see what she thought of this book and what she gleaned from the thriller. This one has been receiving a lot of hype across social media and while sometimes that can be off putting, in our case it only made us more and more excited!
In this fast-paced thriller, Wanda M. Morris crafts a twisty mystery about a black lawyer who gets in over her head after the sudden death of her boss. A debut perfect for fans of Attica Locke, Alyssa Cole, Harlan Coben, and Celeste Ng, with shades of How to Get Away with Murder and John Grisham’s The Firm.
Everyone has something to hide…
Ellice Littlejohn seemingly has it all: an Ivy League law degree, a well-paying job as a corporate attorney in midtown Atlanta, great friends, and a “for fun” relationship with a rich, charming executive—her white boss, Michael.
But everything changes one cold January morning when Ellice goes to meet Michael… and finds him dead with a gunshot to his head.
And then she walks away like nothing has happened. Why? Ellice has been keeping a cache of dark secrets, including a small-town past and a kid brother who’s spent time on the other side of the law. She can’t be thrust into the spotlight—again.
But instead of grieving this tragedy, people are gossiping, the police are getting suspicious, and Ellice, the company’s lone black attorney, is promoted to replace Michael. While the opportunity is a dream-come-true, Ellice just can’t shake the feeling that something is off.
When she uncovers shady dealings inside the company, Ellice is trapped in an impossible ethical and moral dilemma. Suddenly, Ellice’s past and present lives collide as she launches into a pulse-pounding race to protect the brother she tried to save years ago and stop a conspiracy far more sinister than she could have ever imagined (summary from Goodreads)
This book was definitely more legal thriller than murder mystery but I was totally ok with that. I love Law and Order and I wanted to be a lawyer before life happened so a legal thriller was right up my alley! It was also a book about secrets—dark secrets. Though not as dark as I was expecting, Ellice definitely has secrets in her past. I felt invested in Ellice’s story and her past but there was something off about this novel though and I had a hard time identifying what it was until later on. I mean I read the story quickly and I thought it moved at a nice pace that also kept me reading longer than I meant to. I was interested in the story and the characters, but yet I felt a strange disconnect. I held on to my thoughts until my friends and I could meet for book club to see if anyone else was feeling the same way and my friend really hit the nail on the head for me—I am a white reader. T
here were times in the book when I was frustrated by Ellice’s choices, for example there were plenty of times when I was like ok she’s a lawyer why isn’t she asking for her own lawyer? I would immediately be asking for an attorney to protect me but Ellice didn’t and when I brought it up to my book club friends, my black friend was like ‘because she’s black, she’s suspicious of the white legal system’. I thought this added a lot of perceptive to Ellice’s character that as a white reader I missed. This is exactly why our book club has been looking for thrillers by POC that explore race issues in white/corporate America.
I loved by Morris brought in racial issues to this book and really created a space for readers to explore racial issues and their own bias in a thriller format. It was a quick read with social substance that didn’t necessarily dominate the storyline but was there for readers to see and ponder. This book would be a great read for book clubs (as it was for ours!) as there is a lot to talk about—race, gender, secrets, murder—all the things! I am so glad we read this book. It’s an exciting debut novel with a well developed main character with a backstory that the author took a lot of time developing which is something that isn’t always at the forefront of thrillers. It was a great book and if you are looking for an interesting legal thriller this is the book for you!
Book Info and Rating
Format: 384 pages, hardcover
Published: November 2 2021 by William Morrow Books
Free review copy provided by publisher, William Morrow Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: legal thriller, thriller