The Herd by Andrea Bartz is a riveting and entertaining thriller. You all must check this one out!
I loved Andrea’s book from last year The Lost Night. It’s a well-crafted thriller that really nailed the era of 2009. So I’ve been eager to read her latest, The Herd. I have to say, I might even love The Herd more than The Lost Night. This one is fantastic and really makes you think. It focuses on complex friendships, female ambition, commercial feminism and goes beyond women’s perfect veneers.
The story is set in an exclusive all-female co-worker space in Manhattan. I could just completely visualize it down to the Instagram campaign. Eleanor is the glamorous founder of the Herd and her closest friends also work there. This results in an all-female staff (another than help from a male IT friend). But while it seems to be supporting feminism and lifting each other up, there’s always more to the story.
In a Q&A, the author Andrea Bartz said that she has visited female coworker spaces and she thought it would be “fun to set a thriller full of secrets, lies, and hidden agendas in such an airy, beautiful, positive setting. In a flash, I saw The Herd’s logo with the H-E-R in purple, and I was off and running.”
Here’s the synopsis:
The name of the elite, women-only coworking space stretches across the wall behind the check-in desk: THE HERD, the H-E-R always in purple. In-the-know New Yorkers crawl over one another to apply for membership to this community that prides itself on mentorship and empowerment. Among the hopefuls is Katie Bradley, who’s just returned from the Midwest after a stint of book research blew up in her face. Luckily, Katie has an in, thanks to her sister, Hana, an original Herder and the best friend of Eleanor Walsh, the Herd’s charismatic founder.
Eleanor is a queen among the Herd’s sun-filled rooms, admired and quietly feared even as she strives to be warm and approachable. As head of PR, Hana is working around the clock to prepare for a huge announcement from Eleanor—one that will change the trajectory of the Herd forever. Though Katie loves her sister’s crew, she secretly hopes that she’s found her next book subject in Eleanor, who’s brilliant, trailblazing—and extremely private.
Then, on the night of the glitzy Herd news conference, Eleanor vanishes without a trace. Everybody has a theory about what made Eleanor run, but when the police suggest foul play, everyone is a suspect: Eleanor’s husband, other Herders, the men’s rights groups that have had it out for the Herd since its launch—even Eleanor’s closest friends. As Hana struggles to figure out what her friend was hiding and Katie chases the story of her life, the sisters must face the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other—and confront just how dangerous it can be when women’s perfect veneers start to crack, crumble, and then fall away altogether.
Suddenly on the biggest day of her career, Eleanor disappears and her friends try to figure out what happened, while trying to keep their own secrets. I was very engaged with Hana and Katie both working (separately) to try and find out what happened to Eleanor. Katie uses her investigative journalism skills to go a bit deeper while Hana is concerned a key event in the past might be brought to life as a result of Eleanor’s disappearance. We follow the book from Katie and Hana’s perspective and it’s interesting reading their different approaches to both their careers and Eleanor’s disappearance.
I much prefer thrillers that have a mystery component to it like this one. They catch my attention more and are typically very layered. When you have a thriller just be about someone who is evil just because—it tends to be weak.
The cost of ambition
Women are expected to always be likable and pretty much perfect. So books like The Herd are especially insightful as they show women in all different lights such as being ambitious and doing anything in the name of self-preservation. This one really focuses on female friendship and working to “have it all.” After reading The Herd, Andrea Bartz should be an “auto-buy” author for you all!
This is a must read with lots to discuss for book clubs. Check out my book club questions here.