In Robyn Gigl’s third novel in the Erin McCabe legal thriller series, we find Erin surrounded by a hellscape of villainous men. She can hardly turn around without one or more of them trying to frame her for crimes she didn’t commit, ruin her reputation as an honorable and highly skilled lawyer, or, quite often, kill her. Erin and her law partner, Duane Swisher, must battle them all in a classic David and Goliath setting. The thrill in this thriller comes in watching them use brilliant legal strategy to slay the monsters. It all comes together in a fast-paced, intricately plotted novel that will thrill fans of Gigl’s previous books as well as newcomers to her writing.
I would bet good money that if you start with Remain Silent, you’ll grab her backlist to spend more time with the memorable people populating her universe…
You don’t have to read the previous two books in the series to thoroughly enjoy this latest. The plot lines and characters from the earlier books are seamlessly introduced in Remain Silent. I would bet good money that if you start with Remain Silent, you’ll grab her backlist to spend more time with the memorable people populating her universe, which is the legal and political world of New Jersey.
One thing you’ll learn more about from the earlier books is Erin’s transition and how passionately she feels the need to protect and advocate for other trans people. Being transgender informs Erin’s worldview, and Gigl is not shy about her sharing it in detail. The magic comes in her ability to educate the reader on the issues without being polemic. Because Erin’s transgender status is integral to the motivations of those seeking to harm her, all aspects of it become germane.
As an individual, it touches on every aspect of her life, including her psyche. Here she describes her state of mind concerning her father, whose rejection hits her in a deep, deep place.
A place where she had stored all the pain and anger caused by the vitriol directed at her. A place where all the self-loathing and guilt resided, buried deep under her desire to be proud of who she was. A place that she had tried to hide as diligently as she had previously hidden her gender identity from the world and from those she thought loved her. A place where she stood naked and exposed, unable to deflect the scorn of those who judged her and mocked her for who she was.
No matter how out and proud Erin may be, she is as vulnerable as anyone would be to being scorned and rejected.
This reflection tells us so much about Erin, about the realities of being different than other people in a world eager to blame the ‘others’ for all of society’s ills. No matter how out and proud Erin may be, she is as vulnerable as anyone would be to being scorned and rejected. To me, Erin’s true bravery is how she perseveres despite her deep hurt, simply trying to be who she really is. Sharing her vulnerabilities makes us love her more.
The novel’s plot is sprawling and encompasses at least two parallel storylines and multiple characters’ points of view. I admit to having some difficulty in keeping track of the bad guys. The legal system is made up of multiple parts, and they all play into the action. There are a lot of names. The apex predator over them all is William Townsend, a powerful politician in the state currently running for governor. He will do anything to win the election, and he sees Erin as his primary obstacle. A person from his opponent’s campaign named Bradley Montgomery is ordered to try to bribe Erin for the information she has about Townsend. The attempt to bribe doesn’t work, and they part ways, but only after Montgomery shares that he is transgender also, but still living in the closet as a man. Erin later learns that shortly after she left Montgomery’s beach property, he was murdered. Local authorities are eager to pin the murder on her, with Townsend’s orders and Erin’s transgender status more powerful motivators than any thought of catching the real murderer.
Townsend’s fix-it man, the stone-cold Michael Gardener, has exposed himself after killing Montgomery and looks to eliminate anyone who may know anything that can harm Townsend or himself. When Erin is arrested for the murder, it’s based on falsified evidence provided by Gardener. The idea of what Erin’s fate might be in jail has her friends and family deeply concerned, not least of them Erin. Will she be put in the men’s wing? There lay danger at a level she’s never experienced. The women’s wing would seem safer, but even here, she faces assault and treachery. In one of the most exciting scenes in the book, Erin must save her own life from a knife attack. She does so by using her Krav Maga skills and instantly becomes a physical badass as well as an intellectual one.
She is deeply layered, steady in her dealings with others but not above lashing out, a heroine who faces implacable foes with grit and determination.
The plot is stimulating and harrowing and will keep you turning the pages. But it is Erin McCabe herself who will make you care about all the machinations. She is deeply layered, steady in her dealings with others but not above lashing out, a heroine who faces implacable foes with grit and determination. I love the time spent with Erin outside the crime narrative: her relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; her relationship with her steadfast and amazing mother; her interactions with others that show the full range of her character. More of that would be welcomed.
Pick up this novel if you like tight plotting, or pick it up because the worldview of a transgender person is interesting and deserving to be told. Whatever you do, though, add it to your to-be-read pile and place it right at the top.