Workplace bullying may take a fatal turn when someone tampers with a tormented co-worker’s automobile in Komar’s (The Ghost in the Hollows, 2014) thriller.
Speeding down the road, Dawn MacGregor suddenly realizes that her brakes are useless and winds up somersaulting her sports car. A flashback takes readers back to Dawn’s transfer from the East Coast to Boulder, Colorado, for Link Aerospace Corporation. She’s understandably nervous about her first day, but making a good impression with Department of Information Services head Arana Skudlarick may very well be impossible. Arana, who has animosity for anyone she thinks is against her, hates Dawn before the two even meet. She and a few co-workers are convinced that Dawn’s at the Boulder Division to innovate and make them look bad, thereby putting their jobs at risk. The group sets about undermining Dawn, from rejecting her design proposal to rearranging items in her office. Things escalate into dangerous territory with slashed tires, a threatening note left in Dawn’s car, and porn charges showing up on her credit card statement. It’s hard for Dawn to prove mobbing when, for example, she’s the only one not getting a memo of a morning meeting time change. She fights for her retrieval-system design, while Arana’s latest transgression may do considerably more than tarnish Dawn’s reputation. Komar’s workplace setting is no less fraught than any other thriller’s locale, featuring a sensitive protagonist and an unmistakable villain. The fascinating Arana comes complete with “the beast,” her name for the anger that beats a drum in her chest. Perspectives from both women alternate before the center shifts to Dawn, which actually intensifies the story—it’s more chilling not knowing what Arana’s up to. Dawn’s periodic sightings of a coyote apparently spying on her at her home leads to a somewhat heavy-handed metaphor near the end. But Komar’s somber, unflinching narrative shines a glaring light at the precariousness and futility of bullying. At the same time, leaving Dawn’s fate in question for a large portion of the novel soaks the pages in untempered suspense.
A gratifying, pertinent tale of a woman facing her monsters—white-collar ones.