The Coworker
August 28, 2023

Book Review

The Coworker

reviewed by Sandra Hoover


Goodreads | Crossmyheartbookreviews

The Coworker is an intriguing workplace thriller that pits two coworkers against each other in a twisted story of deceit, lies and secrets.  McFadden tackles some weighty subject matter including the power of past secrets to destroy as well as workplace bullying and the devastating consequences that can result when it crosses a line. 

This story features a character exhibiting several traits of autism, although she’s never identified as such, and highlights the insensitivity and brutality often directed at people who others perceive as different or strange.  There’s a lesson for each of us within the pages of this book.

This thriller unfolds through the points of view of two coworkers, Dawn Schiff and Natalie Farrell.  Dawn is an accountant – unique, awkward, anti-social, highly observant, possibly autistic, and a stickler for punctuality with an obsession for turtles that she oddly appears to identify with.  Don’t you wish you had a shell to withdraw into when you need to escape?  On the other hand, Natalie is the office golden girl – a beautiful, social butterfly who isn’t above using her appearance to get what she wants.  As the top salesperson of the office, she’s the boss’s obvious favorite in more ways than one.  Everyone loves Natalie . . . or do they?  The office staff, who include Natalie’s boyfriend Craig and best friend Kim, are often heard making hurtful jokes at Dawn’s expense.  Do they think she can’t hear them?  When Dawn fails to show up for work one morning at her normal time, Natalie is shocked and left with a growing sense of dread.  A mysterious phone call with a crypted plea for help convinces her to go by Dawn’s house to check on her. Natalie’s discovery fuels an investigation and turns unwelcome, accusatory eyes on her.  It isn’t long before accusations of bullying start flying, and evidence of a crime starts piling up. What happened to Dawn Schiff?  Is Natalie a friend or foe?  The story that follows is an intriguing game of chess with two unreliable narrators telling their side of the story. It’s up to readers to decide who to believe.

The Coworker is a chilling, twisted psychological thriller that is rendered via two extremely unreliable narrators making it nigh on impossible to decide who the real villain is.  Several plot twists keep readers on their toes and second guessing themselves.  Part of the story is revealed through emails from Dawn to a mysterious friend living across the country that are highly effective in creating doubt in the minds of readers as well as that of law enforcement.  The author’s choice of dialogue is simplistic, lending a childlike quality to some conversations, and given the state of mind of some characters, it’s quite effective in keeping the storyline authentic.  While the story gets off to a slow start, things quickly start popping with one twist after another, and there’s no avoiding the growing sense of malice in both Natalie and the readers.  Part of this sordid tale isn’t hard to figure out as I did early on, however, the author saves a few shockers for both characters and readers for the ending.  I suspect readers will be split on the way this eventually plays out, but I enjoyed the author’s twist on justice in the end.  Is it believable?  Is justice served?  You decide.

The Coworker is a unique thriller that takes a hard look at toxic coworkers and workplaces with an eye on the disastrous consequences that often result from office bullying.  While it’s easy to brush it off as “joking”, the long-term mental effects on those who may be the subject of bullying are heartbreaking, sad and sometimes deadly.  Author Freida McFadden has given us all something to think about.  Highly recommended to fans of psychological thrillers and domestic and workplace thrillers.

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