The fifth entry in the Jane Ryland mystery/crime series checks so many boxes on the exceptional novel check-list that Hank Phillippi Ryan might want to make room in her already jam-packed award cabinet. Every novel in this series imparts unsurpassed plotting and a timely theme threaded with reliability and consistency. Say No More starts its theme with its very title and infuses into every pivotal action the paralyzing effects of keeping quiet about a crime, even when it is a crime committed against oneself. But, of course, it is all much more complex than that, and nobody delves into the complex and unravels it better than Hank.
The characters, both major and minor, are the embodiment of authenticity, and readers will appreciate the attention to detail the author exerts. I found the clothes descriptions quite telling about the characters’ personalities, with traits such as greed and timidity easily recognizable. Further insight can be gained from Ryan’s use of multiple points-of-view, too, with the major players each having their own turn speaking and moving the action along. Jane and Jake still take stage front and center, but the additional POVs provide a complete and most satisfying immersion.
One of the most distressing topics concerning college campuses today is that of sexual assault, rape, mostly involving young women attacked by fellow male students, and too many times with the excuse of alcohol or other drugs. Jane Ryland has left the breaking news department of Channel 2 News and is working on a special project, a documentary on that very issue, sexual assaults on college campuses. Hoping to get hits from a FB page set up asking for students wanting to tell their stories to contact her or her producer, Jane has heard from a rape victim who is willing to meet with Jane about her nightmarish experience as a college student at a party. Jane has just come forward herself with information about a crime, a hit-and-run she witnessed and a description of the driver. Reporting the accident just seems like the right thing to do to Jane, but she will face her own dilemma about speaking out, especially after receiving a note warning her to SAY NO MORE.
Meanwhile, Jake Brogan, Boston Police Department detective and Jane’s boyfriend, is investigating a drowning that might be a homicide. The victim is associated with a local college as an adjunct professor in the drama department. Avery Morgan was on loan from her screen-writing in Hollywood and living in a house furnished by the college. Jake and his partner Paul DeLuca are met with a wall of silence in the residential neighborhood called The Reserve, with no one admitting to having seen anything. And, there’s Jake’s snitch who is having problems with the Boston gangster family he has been snitching on, afraid he’s said too much. All have connections to the same college as Jane’s rape victim.
And, Jane and Jake have their own secrets and struggles with just how much to say concerning their relationship. It’s always been a conflict of interests, with Jake’s police work and Jane’s reporting, but they are trying to strike a happy balance with Jane leaving the breaking news part of reporting. How much do they reveal about their personal lives to others and how much do they reveal to each other if their work intersects? With a private engagement now cementing their feelings, much more is on the line. How much and what are they willing to sacrifice to achieve the right balance?
I was most fortunate to receive an advanced reader’s copy of Say No More from the author. I thank Hank Phillippi Ryan for that and for providing another riveting tale that is now one of my favorite reads of 2016.