The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan is the second thriller set in Boston featuring journalist Jane Ryland and police detective Jake Brogan (September 10,2013).
Read on for an audiobook excerpt of Chapter 1 and a chance to win!
Jane Ryland is still adjusting to life as a newspaper reporter, which is quite different from her former life as a television journalist, when an ex-colleague, Tucker Cameron, comes to her for help. Tucker is adopted and has requested to be reconnected with her birth mother. The adoption agency–the Brannigan–finds her mother and reunites them.
The only problem is Tucker believes the agency has paired the wrong mother with the wrong girl.
Across town, Detective Jake Brogan is investigating the murder of a young woman. The scene appears to be a domestic altercation, with two small children involved. The kids are hauled off into the foster care system. But there’s an issue: an empty crib in the apartment and one of the toddlers talking about ‘baby’–a baby the authorities can’t find.
On the surface, the two cases don’t seem to have anything to do with each other. However, as Jane pursues Tucker’s story, she receives threatening phones calls, someone breaks into her apartment, and Detective Jake Brogan –a man she has, as Facebook would say, a ‘complicated’ relationship with–keeps showing up in the same place as her leads.
The Wrong Girl is the second in Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Jane Ryland/Jake Brogan series. The chapters are quick and packed with lots of information, alternating primarily between Jane and Jake. The quick pace of the chapters creates an interesting contrast between the way reporters (Jane) investigate and the way police officers (Jake) investigate. Both methods prove effective.
Jane’s focus is on people, on getting a read on the person she’s interviewing:
“Why don’t I think she’s my birth mother?” Tuck spun her coffee cup between her thumb and forefinger, seemed fascinated by the sound of it scraping on the plastic tabletop. The coffee shop’s morning crush and bustle had dwindled and the three women were the only customers still at a table. The place smelled of fresh coffee and something cinnamon. A TV, mounted in the corner above the cash register, flickered a muted CNN. Jane read the screen scrawl: “Severe weather on the way for New England. Officials warn residents may have to….”
“Well, here’s why,” Tuck dropped her cup-spinning, took a sip, then grimaced.
Remembering something? Jane wondered. Or maybe Tuck’s coffee was cold. They’d been here a good hour, maybe more, looking at documents and listening to Ella explain how foolproof the Brannigan’s system was. That alone was enough to make Jane skeptical. Nothing was foolproof, any reporter could tell you that.
Jake’s focus centers on the environment:
It was four steps across the living room to an archway into the kitchen. Jake paused, getting a read on the place. Sniffed, as he always did. No gas, nothing burning, a sweet fragrance of—maybe some cleaning thing. He surveyed left to right, cataloging the elements, typing notes without looking at the keyboard. Dented white refrigerator, seen better days, but clean, no grubby smudges around the handle. He’d have to check inside it. Two saucepans on a gas stove. Open box of Quaker Oats on the drain board. An open box of Cheerios, on its side, a few pieces spilled on the floor. Cereal. Jake looked at his watch. Five in the afternoon. Huh.
Other characters get some page time between Jane and Jake’s investigations. Ryan shows two agency players–Ella and Niall–sneaking around for various nefarious reasons. But the character crew that is the most entertaining is that of Afterwards–the crime scene cleaning company.
The cleanup crew of Afterwards is always in the wrong place at the wrong time, because they aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box. However, they’re strangely endearing. Kellianne, Keefer, and Kevin bumble around the crime scenes, showing up hours earlier than they’re needed. Their only other form of entertainment, aside from cleaning up after dead bodies, is abusing one another–they’re siblings, after all:
Right now, she was cramped into the incredibly hot back seat of the Afterwards truck, Keefer in the front seat zoned out with his ear buds, Kevin inside the triple-decker. She’d bet ten billion dollars they were too early again. She wiped a place on the car window with her fingers to see out. The news people were still here, for crap's sake, she recognized that hooker-looking girl from Channel 5. And that was absolutely the ME’s white van parked by the hydrant. Long as the ME was still here, they couldn’t go in and start. Even she knew that.
“Yo, team,” Kevin opened the driver’s side door, blasting her with cold air.
Team. What a full-blown moron. Who died and put him in charge? She winced, remembering the morning’s visit to the hospital. Well, their father hadn’t died yet.
The combination of humor, horror, and tension makes Ryan’s The Wrong Girl a very entertaining read. Not only does The Wrong Girl have an intriguing mystery, but Ryan takes truly heartbreaking situations–kidnapping, the dissolution of families, the possibilities of never truly knowing who you are or where you come from–and examines them from several different angles: foster families, adoption, blood relations, and the bonds you form throughout your life. Ryan has created quite a mosaic of destruction and redemption.
Intrigued? Listen to an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the audiobook:
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Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.