Book Review: Whisper Network — Chandler Baker

The desire to make a novel Big Little Lies is understandable. But Whisper Network, a new novel set around a lukewarm mystery at a sporting goods empire, is less like Big Little Lies than it is like fetch. Stop trying to make fetch happen.

Sloane, Ardie, and Grace have worked at Truviv, Inc. for years. With the death of the CEO and the arrival of a new woman, Katherine, at the office, the office dynamic changes dramatically. The women consider contributing to the BAD Men list: Beware of Asshole Dallas Men, but there may be consequences no one could foresee.

Of course there are consequences, and that’s where Big Little Lies comes in. Chandler Baker, in her adult fiction debut, cribs Moriarty’s interstitial interviews technique, describing a big event that, at the beginning of chapter one, is still three weeks away from the reader’s grasp. It is difficult to feel any sort of suspense when the meat of Whisper Network runs in a straight, flat line. It’s not difficult to figure out in advance what the court documents describe, and there is not enough content to care about it overly.

Baker writes from the perspective of a “chorus of women”, representing all women who have been harassed in the workplace. They speak for everyone and for no one, and it often takes the reader out of the novel when one of these voices appears as if it could have been one of the lead characters. It’s too broad a conceit to work, and … it doesn’t.

Whisper Network boasts a few moments of satisfaction: Sloane is a terrible person until she isn’t, and Ardie gets some shots in herself. The book’s largest twist is telegraphed so far in advance that they already knew about it in the Old West, but the moment of final revelation is visceral in its neatness.

Whisper Network is not a bad book, but it is wearing a cloak that does not fit it at all. A book about straight office politics that tried to understand the labyrinth that women have to traverse to not just get ahead, but to survive, could have worked much better. As a thriller, Whisper Network is a snooze, clumsily narrated and only intermittently well drawn.

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