Skip to main content

Her, Too


Her, Too

Bonnie Kistler, a former lawyer and the author of THE CAGE and HOUSE ON FIRE, returns with yet another searing, urgently timely thriller based on the #MeToo movement and full of catch-22s.

When beautiful, blonde, Southern girl Kelly McCann learned that everyone in the district attorney’s office called her “the Cheerleader,” she ditched her colorful suits and tamped down her excitement until she became something far more intimidating: the number-one defense lawyer for men accused of sex crimes. Athletes and musicians basically pay her mortgage and keep her in designer wear, and the occasional CEO certainly doesn’t hurt. But when we meet Kelly, she has just won the biggest case of her career.

"Full of riveting, unguessable twists and a ripped-from-the-headlines plot, HER, TOO is Kistler’s best novel yet.... Despite the seriousness of the topic...Kistler handles every interaction with sensitivity, care and a clear, unflinching gaze."

Dr. George Carlson Benedict is unassuming at 50 years old with his gray hair, glasses, rumpled suits and stooped shoulders from years of hunching over a microscope. But on paper, he is not just the controlling shareholder of a major pharmaceutical company or winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; he is an international celebrity. Benedict has just cured Alzheimer’s…or at least has come close enough to doing so by creating a vaccine for the devastating, debilitating illness. He is also a violent serial rapist, but with Kelly’s help, he has beaten the accusations and come out a hero --- especially when it comes to the counterprotesters standing outside the courthouse waving signs that say “Don’t Cancel Dr. B!” and “Save Our Savior!”

For years, Kelly has known that the glory of defending these heinous men lasts only as long as the end of the trial. Her rides home find her feeling soiled, damned with spots of complicity. But it is not until the night of Benedict’s post-trial celebration that she realizes just how much damage her career has wrought. After luring her into his office to pay her a “bonus,” Benedict doses her with his own modified version of Rohypnol, which renders the victim paralyzed but fully aware and able to feel everything happening to them. And then he rapes her. Just as he has done to at least four other women.

Kelly would know, as she helped him pay off three and beat the fourth in her latest trial. Far from the soft-spoken monotone genius he has portrayed for months, Benedict reveals to Kelly that he was offended about being “silenced” and controlled by her directives --- don’t speak to the media, wear this suit, appear this way --- and that he is done acting as her puppet. But even Kelly cannot expect how far his act of violence will ripple through the rest of her life.

At home, Kelly is the mother to a teenage son (who, coincidentally, idolizes Benedict) and a perky preteen daughter, as well as the stepmother to her husband’s daughter from his first marriage, who is now studying to become a lawyer herself (and is not a fan of either Benedict or Kelly, whom she calls a “gender traitor”). She is also the wife to Adam, who is locked in a vegetative state since a sudden stroke cut short his promising life and career.

Kelly knows that coming forward about her rape will mean putting her entire career in jeopardy. After all, the media and public will believe either that she is lying about her rape or that she has been lying about her clients’ innocence for a decade. Neither option is palatable, and both put her ability to support Adam’s expensive medical care at risk. But Kelly knows something that not even Benedict is aware of (or at least cares to remember): the women he wronged are still out there, and now they have a brainy, rage-filled lawyer on their side.

Joining forces with the women who Benedict raped is not easy, especially when you’re the one who defended him and prevented them from seeking justice. But when tragedy befalls the fourth accuser, the other three tell Kelly they’re ready. With one lawyer, one tech whiz, one scientist and one cleaner with open access to Benedict’s office, these ladies will band together to take him down the only way they know how: by dismantling his reputation. But as their plans are foiled step by step and their personal safety is once again in danger, it becomes obvious that someone is on to them. But who?

Full of riveting, unguessable twists and a ripped-from-the-headlines plot, HER, TOO is Kistler’s best novel yet. While the drama of her previous books played out mostly in the courtroom, she takes her latest out into the streets, where she shines. Her characters are raw, authentically human and deeply compelling…even Kelly, who I imagine most readers will view, like her stepdaughter, as a traitor at first glance.

Kistler does an incredible job of humanizing her protagonist while also laying bare some very real truths about the pervasiveness of sexual assault and how no one --- genius, beauty, wealthy, poor --- is immune to the violence of men like Benedict. Despite the seriousness of the topic (this one should come with plenty of trigger warnings), Kistler handles every interaction with sensitivity, care and a clear, unflinching gaze.

As Kelly’s junior remarks, “To some degree [all men] have that sense of entitlement…. A woman’s body is a commodity. It’s something they can buy.” The men in HER, TOO are certainly as described, but the women are powerful harbingers of justice and deliverers of seriously jaw-dropping revenge.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on July 14, 2023

Her, Too
by Bonnie Kistler