Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan is the 5th book in the Jane Ryland series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel.
The dynamic Hank Phillippi Ryan is no stranger to accolades. Her crime novels have earned 5 Agatha Awards as well as the Anthony, Daphne du Maurier, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark honors; her most recent, 2016’s Say No More, is a nominee for this year’s prize given in grandmaster Clark’s name. Further, the author—who is also the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate—has won 33 Emmys and 13 Edward R. Murrow Awards for her groundbreaking exposes. Not surprisingly, professional pedigree has largely informed her fiction.
Say No More is Ryan’s 5th novel to feature 30-something reporter Jane Ryland, who has largely redeemed herself in the eyes of the public following the humiliation of being fired for refusing to give up a source. This story opens as Jane and her producer, Fiola, witness a hit-and-run car accident on an early Monday morning in Boston—a seemingly insignificant event that later proves to be anything but. Meanwhile, Jane’s (somewhat undercover) boyfriend, homicide detective Jake Brogan, is called to the scene of a suspicious drowning in an uppity, tight-lipped community known as the Reserve. The victim, Avery Morgan, was a Hollywood screenwriter guest teaching at the equally secretive Adams Bay College.
Small-world coincidences being what they are, Jane—recently reassigned to her station’s new documentary unit (a lower profile, behind-the-camera gig) to work on a story about sexual assaults on college campuses—also has an interest in Adams Bay: Isabel Russo. Isabel is a rape victim who has come forward and is contemplating telling her story on camera, which would be a major boon for the piece. But if we’ve learned anything from Law & Order: SVU, it’s that the cover-up is often nearly as contemptable as the crime.
In addition to chasing her story, with its inevitable complications and complexities, Jane is also saddled with having to make an identification in the hit-and-run case for the District Attorney’s office—though she’s been receiving anonymous “Say No More” notes that seem to hint at a very real threat. But why?
As often tends to happen, Jane and Jake find their cases overlapping, which poses continued challenges to their respective professions given the nature of their personal relationship. There are other ethical considerations too. What are Jane’s duties as a witness? And is convincing Isabel to go public really in the young woman’s best interest? Also, how far will Jake go to protect a confidential informant?
It’s these hard-hitting questions coupled with Ryan’s insider knowledge of the news media and justice system that elevate her fiction beyond norm. So too her ability to present multiple viewpoints (sometimes, to near dizzying effect) of the same events and players, resulting in greater empathy for her characters and their circumstances—even as it further muddles the ever-present gray areas.
Hank Phillippi Ryan has never lacked for style or substance, and Say No More is a suitable addition to her impressive body of work. Her engaging, well-drawn characters demand heart space while also engaging your head. It’s a winning combination of craft and cunning that has distinguished the author among her contemporaries while ensuring that her readers are the true and real winners.
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John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for Examiner.com from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at www.johnbvaleri.com and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.