Patrick C. Crowell,
Hostile Environment
(Synergy, 2007)

At 396 pages, Hostile Environment is a good legal/thriller novel. At around 300 pages, it might have been great.

The premise of the book is first class, taking us into waters not usually traversed in thriller novels. The soul of the story concerns the very much up-to-date and tomorrow's headline theme of harassment, in particular sexual harassment and the infamous glass ceiling of the corporate world. There is a killing, but unusually, it is not the core of the book.

The main protagonist, Adel Blair, is a lawyer with feet of clay to some extent. She is not the common fodder of crime novels, the avenging angel out to right wrongs and change the world. It is somewhat refreshing to find her concerned about the income of the firm and prepared to compromise principles to earn it. This makes her a wonderfully real person.

Life in the big corporation is well depicted and pulls few punches in describing the way business works. It generally paints a picture of flawed rather than evil people -- apart from the main villain who is just that little bit too dark and bad. The book rattles along at a great pace and is truly a page turner.

As with all thrillers I cannot reveal how it all ends, but reading those final chapters I visualised them as pure cinema. They were captivating and you will be rooting for the characters.

Still, this book would be even better with fewer pages. Ironically, at one point a character refers to skipping over descriptive passages in a Grisham novel. That is how I felt at times here. There are some passages where Crowell uses triple the number of words needed by over-describing scenes. He also verbalizes buzzers and cats, stalling the flow unnecessarily.

Crowell has a background in law and big business, and therefore he can bring an authoritative voice to the subject under examination here. Apart from the over-description, I must admit I loved the story and would recommend this book to anyone interested in a thriller, a legal novel or book that looks at a modern phenomenon that requires examination.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

2 June 2007

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