Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hank Philippi Ryan, The Other Woman

Hank Philippi Ryan, The Other Woman
Forge Books; © 2012

This is the first book in a series (so far with five entries) featuring Jane Ryland, and it was quite widely admired:

2013 Mary Higgins Clark Award

Finalist 2012 Agatha Award for Best Novel
Finalist 2013 Anthony Award for Best Mystery
Finalist 2013 Macavity Award for Best Mystery
Finalist 2013 Shamus Award for Best Novel

It probably says more about me than about the book, but I was not all that impressed.

Ryland was a rising television news star in Boston, until the subject of one of her stories (Arthur Vick) sued for libel—and won a $1 million judgment.  Ryland had refused to reveal her source for the story, and the jury chose to believe Vick.  She lost her job in the aftermath, and, as this book opens, is beginning a new job (which, incidentally, is not well defined—newspaper reporters tend to have “beats”—local government, education, neighborhood, crime/police; by inference, Ryland seems to be on a mix of covering politics—a campaign for a US Senate seat—and crime).  Her first assignment is to get an interview with the wife (Moira Lassiter) of one of the candidates (Owen) for the Senate.

Meanwhile, a cop whom Ryland has reluctantly chosen not to pursue a personal relationship with is one of the lead investigators working on what may, or may not, be serial killings.  (Incidentally, for all the media coverage the killings are getting, it seems odd that apparently only two cops are actively working the case.)  And—surprise!—one of the potential suspects is Arthur Vick.

Reverting back to the campaign, a young woman (Keena Wilke) basically talks her way into a more and more important role as a volunteer, while another (or the same?) woman is up to something as Holly Neft.  As we progress through the book, Lassiter’s campaign manager, Rory Maitland, does some fairly surprisingly badly designed things…and Lassiter seems not to realize that Maitland is behaving strangely (Lassiter, it should be noted, is a career politician and a former governor of Massachusetts).  None of these characters seem to me to be well-developed or particularly credible; their actions seem to spring more from the requirements of Ryan’s plot than from their personalities.

Jane Ryland, our lead character, did not make a very positive impression (on me, at any rate).  She starts off being pretty self-pitying (understandably, maybe) and whiny.  She apparently never sleeps or eats.  And the examples we get to read of her reportorial writing are not very compelling.  As an interviewer, she doesn’t ask interesting, probing, or challenging questions.  (Frankly, she never seems to be well-prepared for interviews.)

Finally (the this is almost certainly a SPOILER, so you might want to skip this paragraph), apparently no one knows that Owen Lassiter had been married once before he married Moira, and that he has a son and a daughter from that first marriage.  The man’s a career politician, for god’s sake.  As near as I can make out the timeline, he held elective office during his first marriage.  And everyone has forgotten about it? 

Ryan writes reasonably well, and the conclusion to the book is reasonably well-handled,  But I had a lot of trouble getting to the conclusion.  I’m not sure I’m inclined to read another in the series.


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