The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Publisher: Forge (September 4, 2012). Mystery/thriller. Hardcover. 416 pages. ISBN 978-0-7653-3257-8.
Every time I review a mystery, I say that I don’t read that many mysteries and it’s true. Of the 60-100 books I read each year, only about 10% are mystery/thrillers. One of my favorite mysteries ever is The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. I lived in D.C. for one happy year while attending graduate J-school at the University of Maryland at College Park. I spend a ton of time exploring D.C. and not just the touristy places but Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle and downtown clubs etc. Grisham’s writing deftly took me back to all those places. I mention this because author Hank Phillippi Ryan fails to illustrate Boston for the reader.
Her novel could’ve been in any city. At the end she states that she “tweaked” some of Boston’s geography to protect the “innocent.” I don’t approve. There’s no need. Why can’t Mt. Auburn Cemetery be mentioned or certain well-known streets? She’d go from reporter Jane Ryland’s Corey Road apartment [a real Brookline street] to some made up streets. It all rather confused me. The novel would’ve been all that much better if she’d detailed Boston. Phillippi Ryan certainly knows Boston and could have energized it. Instead Boston becomes a dry and rather bland city that no one would even want to visit. What’s the point in even setting it here? Make up the city altogether then. Either fictionalize it all or none of it. It’s confusing to go back and forth.
The Other Woman is a fantastic mystery layered with nuances and new developments. It starts with several unsolved murders by bridges along the Charles River. Reporter Jane Ryland, who used to be a hotshot TV reporter, made a dire mistake in protecting a source who then disappeared. Ryland looked wrong. She lost her prestigious post. Now she works at a newspaper. She’s trying to make that a success and regain respect among her peers. It’s campaign season and her editor assigned her a fluff piece about a Senate hopeful’s wife. As a seasoned investigative reporter Ryland sees more to the story. She focuses in on “the other woman” she sees in some campaign pictures. Throughout the case and the novel, the other woman shifts and Phillippi Ryan’s taut first-rate thriller keeps the reader guessing. My only other concern for future novels, besides the setting, is that Phillippi Ryan focuses on character development. We really didn’t learn that much about Jane or her crush/cop friend Jake. If the reader isn’t invested in Jane Ryland it won’t matter how fascinating the next case.
FTC Disclosure: I received this for review from the publisher.