When a female TV producer’s documentary on battered women becomes an exposé of a particular shelter, male studio executives threaten her livelihood in this debut novel.
Years ago, Julianne Sloan left behind a chance at news management and moved to TV programming. Now a producer of Chicago Sizzle, she oversees a staff developing public affairs stories. Since segment producer Tina Beyers is out with the flu, Julianne takes over her story on Horizons, a newly opened shelter for women and their children. One of Horizons’ residents is Elisa Adams, who endured years of abuse from her husband, Peter. She finally made the decision to leave when the couple’s 10-year-old daughter, Kelly, became a victim of Peter’s anger and violence. Julianne interviews women at the shelter, but an even more important story may start with Elisa. Someone at Horizons is ensuring that it’s not a safe haven for Elisa and Kelly—or the other residents. Sadly, Julianne’s plan to expose what’s happening there is met with resistance from her bosses, chiefly Ted Marshall, since evidently the TV studio’s owners helped build the shelter. Determined to finish her documentary and help other abuse sufferers, Julianne quickly realizes that it may come at the expense of her career. Harrison’s absorbing and timely novel shrewdly tackles issues of abuse, which comes in all sorts of ugly colors, including coercion. The danger suggested by the title generally applies to characters other than the protagonist: Elisa is escaping an abusive marriage, while Tina goes undercover at Horizons. But Julianne is oppressed by domineering men at the workplace, a struggle that’s just as potent and relevant. The author deftly balances her narrative with a few respectable males, including cameraman Jake Rossi, Julianne’s confidant and romantic interest (though his current marriage presents a hurdle). But while scene details are clear and precise, lengthy dialogue lessens the impact of fervent remarks. Julianne’s warning to Ted—“I’m fiery enough to bring you up on charges and nasty enough to create a scandal”—is powerful without its accompanying lines, ending with “If I were you, I’d cut my losses and get the hell away from me now.”
A perceptive, no-nonsense dramatization of a crucial and timely topic.