I’ve read a few Catherine McKenzie novels so far; Please Join Us is her 13th book. She’s known for writing thrillers, none of them gory or violent, but definitely page-turners. I read this latest in approximately 24 hours – I was up at the cottage on vacation, it had a great premise with a protagonist I was rooting for, and it came under 300 pages; all elements that led me to race through it in a matter of hours. The plot may not have been entirely believable, but the characters’ motivations rang true and will likely strike a chord with all my fellow female readers who work in a corporate setting. A lawyer turned writer, McKenzie knows what she’s writing about, and it shows.

Plot Summary

Nicole Mueller has hit a wall; she’s 39 years old, and stalling in her once-stellar career as a lawyer. Used to receiving accolades on a yearly basis, the past few months have been difficult on her, and in the cutthroat world of New York City law firms, even a temporary blip in one’s career can mean the difference between a firing and a promotion. Things are difficult in her home life as well. Her husband Dan has been dropping hints about wanting a baby, even though they agreed years ago to remain childless. Even worse, they are losing their beautiful rent-controlled apartment. In the midst of this chaos Nicole receives an email inviting her to join Panthera Leo, a secretive female-only organization designed to boost one’s career and confidence. The premise of their pact is that in a ‘boys club’ world where men are often given promotions without deserving them, Panthera Leo will do the same – give each other a leg up whenever possible, no questions asked. Through this new group Nicole is linked to a CEO, an actress, even a congresswoman, and these connections quickly boost her reputation in her law firm. But when she’s called to an apartment late one night to cover up a serious crime, she realizes she has unknowingly given away a piece of her freedom and autonomy.

My Thoughts

The success of this novel stems from the attitude that Nicole begins the book with: a sense of exhaustion that permeates her life from all angles. She has worked incredibly hard her entire life, continues to work hard every day, and yet she is not seeing the rewards that she feels she deserves. Is this due to the men around her, or is it because she’s chosen a challenging career that is known for causing burnout? I have a few friends who are lawyers, and many are questioning whether they want to pursue the partner track – is it worth the relentless work? Her husband Dan is also a lawyer, but he is in-house counsel at a corporation, which Nicole admits she looks down upon because it’s considered easier and pays less. She enjoys her job but is frustrated at her lack of movement. Regardless of why Nicole feels this way, the arrival of a solution in her inbox is hard to ignore. Many readers, men and women will be able to relate to this feeling in one’s career, whether their lack of movement is their fault or not.

Developments and conflicts arise quickly in this book, but they are rarely the type of life-and-death situations that are commonly found in thrillers. Instead, people’s reputations, careers, and lifestyles are threatened. There are very few physical dangers, in fact one of the only instances of this is during a team-building exercise at a Panthera Leo retreat,  so those looking for some real action may be disappointed. Instead, this novel examines the other ways in which we can hurt one another, and for workaholics who live their entire life to further their career, this may in fact seem like life or death! More like a political thriller, the cliffhangers are based on who is one step ahead of whom, who knows what critical piece of information, and how this will change their future strategy.

Nicole’s stressors are ones that may not seem all that suspenseful, but will certainly make the reader squirm. Threats from evaluation committees, bosses who push their way into critical deals, the very real fear that one may lose their job and be considered ‘unemployable’ in the future are all anxieties that she is faced with – they prompt her to join this shadowy club, but she quickly learns these anxieties could become much more serious if she doesn’t learn to stand up for herself, among both men and women. McKenzie always seems to come out with summer thrillers that steal away an afternoon, and this latest is no exception.

Get my top 25 book recommendations

Sign up to get the download as well as an email sent once a month with links to my latest reviews, information on my online book club, and other bookish announcements.

Check your inbox for the link!

%d bloggers like this: