Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hank Phillippi Ryan, A Force in Fiction and Real Life, Truth Be Told

Hank Phillippi Ryan has a new novel coming out on the 7th of  October entitled Truth Be Told.  I was fortunate, as in the sense of fireworks celebration, to receive an ARC of Truth Be Told, and it is the upcoming publication and my reading of this third book in the Jane Ryland series that I wish to address first.  So, I am placing my review of this sure-to-be-another-award-winning-book at the beginning of my tribute to this favorite author of mine.  Reading Hank's novels is experiencing reader satisfaction extraordinaire.

Truth Be ToldTruth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Truth Be Told, Jane is dealing with a new editor at the Register, the newspaper where Jane is still getting her footing after a public parting of the ways with her television news career.  Jane's current assignment is the foreclosure aspect of banks against those who have taken out loans and can no longer keep up the payments due to unemployment or some other unforeseen hardship.  Covering the emptying of one such family's possessions from their home by sheriff's deputies, Jane and her camera man are taking notes and recording the callousness of the event when the dead body of a young woman is found inside the house, putting a halt to the action and transforming yet an eviction story into a murder scene.  As the only reporter on the scene, Jane is there when Jake Brogan, Boston PD detective shows up to take charge.  Jane's and Jake's yet undetermined relationship that is moving towards definition with an upcoming weekend to Bermuda is still under wraps due to their conflicting careers, her wanting the scoop on a story and Jake required to keep mum about his cases.  With the eviction story intertwined with a murder, Jane and Jake must once again work out their personal and professional boundaries.  Jake's involvement in another case, the twenty-year-old Lilac Sunday murder and a new confession to that murder, coupled with the now empty house murder results in the cancellation of his and Jane's romantic weekend.  That's just the beginning of complicated in this story. 

Truth is always the goal for reporter Jane Ryland and detective Jake Brogan, but never more than now in stories/cases where innocence and guilt are hidden in complex motivations and decades-old secrets.  Who is guilty?  Who is innocent?  Are they exclusive of one another?  Is the complete truth ever told?  Jane's job depends on getting the big scoop, but Jane's personal wiring demands that the innocent are not collateral damage.  Jake has a responsibility to the victims and their families to bring some closure to a tragic event, but closure is never more important than justice.  Joining the two truth seekers in their quest is a new character, Peter Hardesty, who is a lawyer representing the man who has confessed to the Lilac Sunday Murder and another man charged with the empty house murder.  He believes deeply in the right to any person's day in court, and, yet, he is a kindred soul to Jane and Jake in the attainment of truth.  Peter's character also presents a bit of a wrinkle in Jake's clear path to Jane's affections, although that may be a false alarm.  It will be interesting to see what the author's intentions are concerning this appealing new character. 

There is so much to recommend about this book that it might just be easier to say, "Read the book and then we will head nod about its perfection."  Cold cases, the human impact of foreclosures, the power of big banks, the manipulation of money and people, the costs of greed, the ugly twists of love, and the choices that unite and divide us.  Truth is the theme here, but as Liz McDivitt, A & A Bank's first customer affairs liaison notes, "in reality, nothing (is) black and white."

I met Hank Phillippi Ryan at last year's Bouchercon in Albany, and she impressed me as a highly competent, sophisticated woman with a genuine interest in people, her fans, of which I was and am one.  I had read The Other Woman, her first Jane Ryland novel, and so I knew that she was also a brilliant writer.  You would think that all of that would be enough, but since that meeting, I've gotten to know more about Hank and communicate with her via several different venues, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Below is the information listed on HPR's Web site as her "short story," as there is a "long story," too, that outlines her amazing accomplishments in more detail.

Hank's Bio—the Short Story
"Hank Phillippi Ryan is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston's NBC affiliate. She's won 32 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a "master at crafting suspenseful mysteries" and "a superb and gifted storyteller." Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A six-week Boston Globe bestseller, it is also an Anthony and Daphne Award nominee, a Patriot Ledger bestseller, and was dubbed "Another winner" in a Booklist starred review and "Stellar" by Library Journal. She's a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014."

What the short or long bio fail to disclose about Hank Phillippi Ryan is her amazing generosity to fellow authors.  In addition to her own book promotion events, Hank is constantly attending other authors' book events in support of their work.  Keep in mind that she has a full-time job as a reporter and is a best selling author.  I'm still looking for the phone booth where she changes from her stylish Hank apparel to the Superwoman costume.  And, of course, she is also one of the most gracious and appreciative authors to her fans.

Having just finished reading Hank's third Jane Ryland novel, Truth Be Told, due out October 7, 2014, I am happy to devote this post to such an amazing author.  I encourage all readers who enjoy crime fiction and mystery to settle down in your favorite reading chair in your favorite reading room and treat yourself to some great reading with the Jane Ryland series by Hank Phillippi Ryan.  I've included my reviews to introduce the books, without spoilers.

The Other Woman (Jane Ryland, #1)The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's 2 a.m.  Do you know where your daughter/mother/grandmother/husband/son is?  If they are lucky, they're finishing The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan. To a bookaholic such as myself, staying up late to finish an awesome book is on the grand experiences level of reading.  When I started reading last night, my goal was to read 200 pages in The Other Woman and finish it today.  Ha.  I laugh at my naivety.  There would be no putting this book down until it was finished.  Reading at its best. 

Jane Ryland is starting over in her career of news reporting after her fall from grace as a television newscaster star.  She now finds herself working as a reporter for a Boston newspaper and being assigned the less newsworthy issues.  For Jane, being out of the loop is unbearable, and she quickly finds ways to connect to the bigger stories.  Her assignment to cover the wife of a senate candidate leads to a search for the other woman, but the other woman proves to be an illusive term and person. As is often the case, present-day puzzles stem from past actions and events, both from Jane's life and the political scene in which she becomes involved.  Jane's friendship with Detective Jake Brogan and his investigation into recent homicides of young women left near city bridges contributes more dots in Jane's search.  With election day closing in, time is a constricting commodity.  Not only are a senate race and the lives of young women at stake, Jane's redemption from her public career disgrace is on the line. 

Hank Phillippi Ryan has created a mystery/crime thriller/political puzzle that will satisfy readers of all three interests.  I lean more towards mystery and crime, but Ms. Ryan has shown me that political intrigue can be fascinating, too.  Because, really, it's all about people and what makes them tick, motivates them, and sometimes leads them to paths of destruction for others and themselves.  That's mystery indeed, and the combination of elements leads the reader on a delightfully suspenseful chase of first one twist, then another.  Not to be ignored is the restrained but apparent chemistry between Jan and her detective, a fire that simmers waiting for the flame to rise.  So, what's not to enjoy in reading The Other Woman?  I suspect that Ms. Ryan will continue to titillate our reading pleasures in the next installment of this series.    

The Wrong Girl (Jane Ryland, #2)The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In The Wrong Girl, Hank Phillippi Ryan continues the reporter Jane Ryland and Detective Jake Brogan series in great form.  As in the first book, The Other Woman, the action is perfectly paced, constantly building from one thrilling scene to the next, driving towards a connection of the mufti-layered plot that will not disappoint.  Ms. Ryan knows how to hook the reader on page one and keep you squirming until the last word.

With Jane Ryland still adapting to life as a newspaper reporter, after her fall from television fame for protecting a source, she can ill afford any missteps in her precarious new position.  What she doesn't need is Tucker Cameron, an ex-colleague that caused her headaches at the newspaper, showing up at her apartment on a Sunday afternoon with a problem for which Tuck is soliciting Jane's help.  Having recently been reunited by a reputable adoption agency in Boston with her birth mother, Tuck is convinced a mistake has been made.  Tuck implores Jane to use her reporter skills to uncover what is going on at the adoption agency that guarantees its information as indisputable.  Tuck isn't the only person to be doubting the perfect record of the Brannigan Family and Children Services, and Jane soon starts to suspect that there's indeed something rotten in Denmark concerning the prestigious placement agency.  The secrets run deep, and there are those willing to do whatever it takes to protect them. 

Meanwhile, Boston Police Detective Jake Brogan is called to the scene of a murder where a young woman with no identification has been killed and two small children left alive in an apartment.  Jake also notices a cradle, but no baby.  He seems to be the only one at the crime scene puzzled about the absence.  What appears at first glance to be a domestic homicide proves to be much more complex, wrapped in layers of missing information and missing and misidentified people.  The foster care system becomes an integral part of an investigation that must break through a facade of smoke and mirrors.

Jane and Jake keep finding themselves crossing paths once more in looking for answers (and Jane, a scoop) in their respective searches.  As usual, they serve each other as invaluable resources, and it is for that very reason they struggle to keep their desire for intimacy at bay.  They fear anything beyond friendship and professional allies would cross a line that could cost one of both of them a career.  But, when Jane starts receiving threats and Jake is placed in increasingly dangerous situations, it becomes harder to ignore the depth of their feelings for one another.

One of the aspects of Ryan's writing I most enjoy is how she puts layers of meaning in so much.  Dialogue, plot,characters, and even the title.  These all contain depths that tease the intellect and reward thinking.  With both books in this series, one realizes that the titles, "other woman" and "wrong girl", have multiple sources to which these names could apply in the stories.  I'm so looking forward to the next set of layers from this author.