- By Shannon Kirk
- Polis Books
- 320 pp.
- Reviewed by K.L. Romo
- April 17, 2023
A legal thriller that packs a political punch.
“Who throws away their career on an impossible mission to take down a former attorney general and their own firm?” asks Greta Vinet Seville, the heroine of bestselling author Shannon Kirk’s explosive new legal thriller, Tenkill. Greta herself, that’s who.
A successful lawyer, the 37-year-old once craved the high-seven-figure salary and prestige of working for Boston’s “Big Law international powerhouse” Coarse & Cotton. When she took the job, she thought she’d found the Holy Grail — until former U.S. attorney general Raymond Honeywell is brought on as a senior partner, that is.
Honeywell was a driving force behind the controversies of the notorious Davis administration, including its practice of separating asylum-seeking immigrants from their children — even breastfeeding babies — at the Texas border. He’s also the man who once ordered a private militia to tear-gas journalists at a presidential news conference.
Honeywell is pure evil, and Greta refuses to work with him.
While she protests the partnership, an intern discovers documents that implicate Honeywell in an illegal campaign-finance scheme, among other, far more serious crimes. As the firm’s deputy general counsel, Greta quietly opens an in-house investigation and vows to scour Honeywell’s electronic records to prove her case.
But remembering her felonious Aunt Violet’s words — “Never hesitate to escape the very second you think you should” — she decides to disappear for a while, taking the incriminating documents with her. As is quickly becoming clear, she’s no longer just an attorney working to uncover wrongdoing. She’s a woman in grave danger from the powerful people committing it.
As part of her strategy, Greta assembles a clandestine team to navigate millions of electronic files and identify those that prove Honeywell’s guilt, recruiting her close friend and “cosmic sister,” her lover, a tech guru, a quirky hospital-records archivist, a sociopathic summer hire, and her philosophy-professor brother, among others. While she comes close to calling things off because of the risk, by the time a rogue security detail tries to kill her and her team, Greta knows she’s got to finish what she started. The stakes are too high to quit.
Kirk, herself an attorney, cleverly explains legal procedures in an informal and entertaining way throughout the novel, such as in Greta’s “MOTION TO EXPLAIN WHY I’M ON THE RUN.” Her characters are also rich with idiosyncratic traits and steely determination, and they work together with brilliant legal maneuvering.
Beyond spinning a tale, though, the author uses her storytelling chops to declare her outrage over real-life human-rights abuses — the book is dedicated to “Asylum seekers. The ACLU. [And] All lawyers representing asylum seekers” — and to shine a light on them, making Tenkill as much a call to action as a thriller. Far more than just an energetic page-turner, it’s a commentary on our country’s recent four-year flirtation with anarchy. And in Greta Seville, readers have a fictional embodiment of every American still fighting to keep our democracy alive.
K.L. Romo writes about life on the fringe: Teetering dangerously on the edge is more interesting than standing safely in the middle. She is passionate about women’s issues and loves noisy clocks and fuzzy blankets but HATES the word normal. Find her on Twitter at @klromo and Instagram at @k.l.romo.