Saturday, July 11, 2015

Review: TRILEMMA by Jennifer Mortimer

TRILEMMA by Jennifer Mortimer (Oceanview Publishing, 2014)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Maverick executive Lin Mere takes over as CEO for a new telecommunications company trying to compete with the big boys in Wellington, New Zealand. With the clock ticking, Lin has to give up almost everything to tackle the demands of the job. An Asian-American, Lin has followed her father's trail to New Zealand to try to establish a relationship with her father's estranged family and solve the mystery of why they want nothing to do with her...and while in New Zealand, she's intent on rekindling a romance. When danger secretly enters Lin's life from an unexpected source, she has to face an ordeal even more challenging than the battles in the boardroom. The question becomes not so much whether Lin will succeed in the corporate world, but whether she will survive at all.

Set in Wellington New Zealand, Jennifer Mortimer's book TRILEMMA brings her main character - Linnet Mere to a new city in search of lost family connections and love.

Setting this character up with a completely new start gives Mortimer a chance to put her narrator at a loss on a number of levels - no job (at the outset), no connections, no home and no support means Lin is under pressure and out-of-step from the beginning. Although born in New Zealand, she moved away as a young child leaving a fractured family background. The complications of her family are going to require the reader to pay attention, made more difficult in the earlier part of the book where it concentrates on the goings on in the business environment. Obviously this author knows a lot about the demands of project management, and the telecommunications world. Much of that knowledge, unfortunately, has led to a narrative that is too detailed, borderline boring and definitely in the way too much information camp. Interspersed within are Linnet's attempts to rekindle her relationship with Ben, now living in remote NZ, whilst also finding her sisters and reconnecting the shattered family.

Given that we're looking at all the action in TRILEMMA from Lin's point of view, it's hard not to wonder about the veracity of much here. You're going to have to accept the motivations for the move, and that the high-powered, highly regarded Project Manager can lob in town, get a job with a new broadband startup, find the old boyfriend, find the sisters, rekindle the familial connection, take over the company and sort out the political machinations of the Board (when she realises they are there). All done, it seems, without breaking a fingernail or even into a sweat, whilst simultaneously failing to notice some of the weirdness going on around her.

Along the way there's some points being made about glass-ceilings, sexism and the none-too-subtle bullying that occurs when the outsider woman steps into the position of power. Of the many aspects of this book, these are the things that were possibly most worthwhile, clouded and somewhat watered down by the narrative form which means that the reader, seeing everything through Lin's eyes, could be finding Lin a difficult character to connect with, or worse still, somebody whose motivations seem a bit dodgy.

Stick with TRILEMMA though, and once you get through the first half of the book, things do pick up. The project management / company management 101 shifts to the background and the mystery and (hefty) romantic elements get more of a run as the pace improves. The resolution, however, might make you think less broadband and more high-rise construction. (It's going to take a big dose of suspension of disbelief for many readers).

Undoubtedly TRILEMMA is trying to build into a thriller, but the lack of menace (probably because it's nearly all over before Lin realises it's there) means it's a bit hard to notice/believe whilst reading. Worth a look though if you're interested in somebody making some points about the problems for women in the corporate world.


Karen Chisholm is one of the most respected crime fiction reviewers in Australia. An absolute stalwart of antipodean crime fiction, Karen created and has been running her Aust Crime Fiction website since 2006, highlighting a plethora of authors and titles from this part of the world, to the wider world online. It is a terrific resource - please check it out. 

Karen also reviews for other outlets, such as the Newtown Review of Books, and since 2014 has been a Judge of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel - the New Zealand crime writing award. Her reviews of New Zealand crime novels will now be shared here on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction


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