This is a complex book, with many moving parts so this is a No Spoilers review.
Hank Phillippi Ryan is known for her twisted twisty stories, where assumptions and interpretations can (and will) lead her characters and readers astray. In The Murder List, Hank is at her most ambitious as a writer, offering fans of psychological thrillers a tale with multiple points of view and a cast of characters across three slices of time: distant and immediate past, and present. In lesser hands, this is an invitation for confusion and disaster. The masterstroke to Hank’s successful storytelling here is in her choice of career for the main characters. Lawyers.
Murder List is unique in that it is all about the law. And this is no glamorous portrait of the legal profession. We’re almost reminded that for all his soaring rhetoric, Atticus Finch did not save Tom Robinson. The Murder List is an object lesson that in absence of the Truth, lawyers, like capable authors and investigative journalists, construct a narrative to coax their audience to a conclusion.
Dear reader, you are the jury, impaneled for a ride that illustrates just how adversarial the legal system is in a realistic world of egos and win-at-all costs for both sides of the court room. Justice is indeed a matter of who you know and whether you can pay to play.
None of the characters are entirely likeable or ethical, although you can respect their tenacity…and their ambition. DA Martha Gardiner shades the law to win for the People (or herself?). Defense Attorney Jack Kirkland, husband to our main character Rachel North, can’t seem to turn off his lawyerly mind, even when the Red Sox are on television. Rachel herself is driven, leaving no stone unturned or thrown to get what she wants. There’s the politician and his wife, a journalist, a bulldog of an investigator, and the city of Boston itself, where the zip code can determine your fate.
Verdict. The writing is brisk and descriptive. Clues are subtle. There are no superfluous details, as every brushstroke provides insight into a character’s personality and motivation. Murder List is Hank Phillippi Ryan’s best book yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it cracks the Top Thriller Reads for 2019, and has Hank on the red carpet to awards.
All 4 Paws: 🐾 🐾
Favorite Line.“Forget the speed of light. Nothing travels faster than gossip.”
Thank you to Forge Books for the ARC. Release Date: 20 August 2019.