Friday, January 31, 2020

Book Review: 'The Murder List: A Novel of Suspense' by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan

One sizzling suspense novel!

Author Hank Phillippi Ryan is highly lauded for her work as an investigative reporter and journalist, having been responsible for new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for victims and consumers, and winning 36 Emmy Awards as an investigative reporter for WHDH in Boston as well as 14 Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative and consumer reporting. As an author of considerable note, she has been the winner of 5 Agatha Awards, 3 Anthony Awards, 2 Macavity Awards, the Daphne Du Maurier Award, the Mary Higgins Clarke award, a guest of Honor at Bouchercon 2019, and her novels have been Library Journal's ‘best ofs’ for 2014 to 2016. 

When an author is able to capture the reader within a few opening lines of a novel, the author/reader pact is secure. And that gift is certainly one of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s polished tools, as she displays as this novel begins: ‘We never fight. Not in the past six years, as long as we’ve been married. Not even in the months before that. It isn’t that Jack is always right or I’m always right. Usually our disagreements area but things that don’t matter, so it’s easier and quicker for me to acquiesce. Jack’s a lawyer, so he likes to win. It makes him happy. And that’s good. But now on a Saturday morning in May, sitting face-to-face across our breakfast table in sweats and ratty slippers, we’re definitely on the verge of a real fight. This time it matters. This time I have to win….’ So much insight into the character of Rachel North attaches the reader to her plight – and her story.

A solid suspense thriller, here, positions three characters – Jack Kirkland, defense attorney, Rachel North, a law student in an internship for Boston District attorney, and Martha Gardiner, that very same DA. Each character is so well sculpted they become visual, and that plays a significant role in the unwinding of the plot, as the synopsis outlines: ‘Law student Rachel North will tell you, without hesitation, what she knows to be true. She's smart, she's a hard worker, she does the right thing, she's successfully married to a faithful and devoted husband, a lion of Boston's defense bar, and her internship with the Boston DA's office is her ticket to a successful future. Problem is--she's wrong. And in this cat and mouse game--the battle for justice becomes a battle for survival.‘

Not only is the prose eloquently written, but also the author’s ability to maintain suspense throughout this mesmerizing story makes this a completely satisfying journey into legalese and psychological confrontations. Highly Recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.