Hank Phillippi Ryan made her novelist name with the Charlotte McNally Mysteries, starting with “Prime Time” in 2009. Those were taut, well-plotted mysteries in a short form.
Now, she’s digging in and deepening the plots for long-form novels. The first Jane Ryland mystery is “The Other Woman” published in hardcover in 2012, and now out in paperback.
Jane is a reporter, a star of the Channel 11 news until a businessman denied her report that he was seeing a prostitute and took her to court. When “The Other Woman” begins, she’s starting a new job at a newspaper, the Boston Register. She doesn’t want to rock the boat in her first 90 days, but when she’s assigned to profile the candidates in the upcoming senate race, her investigative journalist skills kick in.
Who is the woman in the red coat at all the rallies and fundraisers? Could she be a candidate’s mistress, in an affair suspected (off the record) by his wife?
At the same time, Jane’s friend – and source – Boston police detective Jake Brogan is investigating a series of murders. The bodies of young woman are turning up under area bridges. The media is already branding the murderer “the bridge killer” – but Jake’s not convinced the killings are linked.
As Jane develops her story and Jake investigates the mounting murder cases, they begin to ask the same question: Are the killings connected to the political race? With the election looming, time to unravel the mystery is running out.
“The Other Woman” is a fantastic murder mystery. The intricately woven plots keep you guessing, and Ryan’s knack for ending her fast-paced chapters on a cliffhanger make the book next to impossible to put down. Ryan is a detail-oriented writer – the settings are easy to picture, every character has a unique voice, and the action is all believable. It’s easy to see why she’s won (or at least been nominated for) all the top mystery-writing awards.
I started figuring out what was going on about two-thirds of the way through, but even so, it was still very suspenseful until the last few scenes. By then, the denouement seemed a bit over-the-top melodramatic and drawn out. Aside from that, I really enjoyed this book.
The Jane Ryland novels are very suspenseful, but the descriptions never get explicit or gruesome. Jane and Jake have some serious sexual tension, but these books don’t have anything I’d be embarrassed about showing my mother or a teenager. I recommend them for anyone who loves a good mystery.
Tom Doherty Associates is publishing “The Wrong Girl” – the second book in the series – in hardcover in September 2013. Watch for my review on Fresh Fiction.