Drawing a Line by William S. Hubbartt

This review is published on Reedsy/Discovery.

Gina Girardi, a private investigator and former patrol officer in Chicago, is hired to find a killer. She accepts the assignment and temporarily puts her other work on the back burner to dedicate time to her new client, James O’Rielly. Mr. O’Rielly is the CEO of a successful American corporation. His two sons, Patrick and Sean, manage the finance and marketing/sales areas, respectively. The genre is mystery and crime, but as a possible motive for murder, the theme is sexual harassment in the workplace; where, when, why and how it happens, and the corporate culture that perpetuates it.

The story is written mostly in the first person from Gina’s perspective. At times, it switched to the third person. Considering the theme of sexual harassment, I can see where this made sense. Accusations of exploitation are often met with the defense that there are two sides to every story. Sean is the perpetrator in this book, proud of his ability to use women and get away with it. His extreme vanity obscured his view during those times when women were actually using him. In those instances, it was particularly enjoyable to peer into the thoughts of women who had leverage; just desserts for Sean’s untenable behavior. But the main theme was about the tragedy that falls to the victims and the devastating consequences that cascade to every aspect of their lives. The courtroom drama took on the nature of a legal thriller with captivating maneuvers and discoveries.

The book has all the elements of a fast-moving crime drama. I did come across many typos, including the name of the company. In some instances, it was spelled O’Rielly; in others, O’Reilly.

The primary reason I gave this book two stars is that I thought the writing style disrupted the flow. An example is the part where Gina attends a sexual harassment presentation, and her thoughts preceding and following the event. It seems like the author is using the book as a platform to inform the reader about the subject. Of course, awareness of sexual harassment is critically important. However, the ubiquity of this topic across media, academia, religious institutions and the corporate world makes the educational form of narrative seem dated and detracts from the mystery to be solved. It seems like Hubbartt is attempting to educate and entertain simultaneously, and I am not sure if the formula worked.

There were many times throughout the book where the author presented a recap of events as though the book was a television series where the viewer needed to be refreshed on the previous episode. Several times, the author defined vernacular that most people would know. Examples include “Facebook website, this so-called social media,” and “I set the phone into a dash-mounted holder. Now I could pay attention to driving with one touch.” These reminders and explanations seemed superfluous and caused the mystery at the center of the story to lose momentum.

The ending wonderfully closed up loose ends and left the reader curious about Gina’s next assignment. She is a likeable character and one I would want to follow.

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