On its surface, The Herd by Andrea Bartz is a suspense thriller meets murder mystery set amidst the shiny privilege of a posh NYC women's social club/co-working space. A deeper read, however, reveals a dash of satire and slightly more nuanced take on the ways feminist principles can become overshadowed by self-interest and pretense. The title itself offers endless opportunity for speculation on double-meanings and thinly veiled references.
The titular Herd is actually THE HERD, the insular domain of founder Eleanor Walsh, described as a charismatic and brilliant Entrepreneur Barbie. The mystery unfolds as Eleanor vanishes on the night of an important event, hints of foul play emerge, and even those closest to her become suspects. While suspicion and secrets abound, alternating characters narrate their version of events. Among the inner circle are writer Katie, who has just returned from a failed book research trip to the Midwest; PR pro Hana, who happens to be Katie's adopted sister and Eleanor's BFF; and artistic graphic designer Mikki. Bartz also introduces eminently detestable antagonists in the form of the misogynistic Antiherd.
Those familiar with the IRL members-only space The Wing will draw instant comparisons with The Herd's Gleam Room, color-blocked bookshelves, complimentary coffee, and gender discrimination lawsuit. I love a good mystery, and while The Herd's prose comes across a bit clunky and overwrought in places, Bartz delivers a juicy page-turner and aspirational escapism just in time to start another month in quarantine.