Fresh Meat: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Truth Be Told, a Jane Ryland and Jake Brogan novel, by Hank Phillippi RyanTruth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan is the third novel featuring Jane Ryland and Jake Brogan, a Boston journalist and cop, whose new investigations of murder amid shady foreclosures and the cold case of the Lilac Sunday murder become as complicatedly intertwined as their relationship (available October 7, 2014).

The novel begins on an unseasonably hot day in May. Jane Ryland is staking out a foreclosed home in a Boston suburb that’s being cleared, working on a story that has become all too common since the financial crisis a few years ago: middle-class families being evicted from their homes.

“I know it’s legal. But it’s terrible.” Jane Ryland winced as the Sandovals’ wooden bed frame hit the tall grass in the overgrown front yard and shattered into three jagged pieces. “The cops throwing someone’s stuff out the window. Might as well be Dickens, you know? Eviction? There’s got to be a better way.” Terrible  facts. Great pictures. A perfect newspaper story. She turned to TJ. “You getting this?”

It should be a routine assignment, but Jane ends up with an even bigger scoop than she bargained for when a dead body is found on the premises. The woman turns out to be a local real estate broker.  All the evidence points to the owner of the home. Could Sandoval have been pushed to the edge by losing his home? Ryan balances two completely different plots that criss-cross repeatedly during the course of the story. The foreclosures are just the beginning of an even bigger, high-stakes scheme that involves some startling players who will stop at nothing to keep their plans a secret. At the same time, Jane’s secret boyfriend, Boston police detective Jake Brogan, has a whopper of a case on his hands. A man has just confessed to the famous twenty-year-old Lilac Sunday killing, a case that haunted Jake’s grandfather for years after working the case.  

Jake’s colleagues take the man at his word, ecstatic to finally close a cold case. However, Jake is not so sure; it seems too neat and tidy to be true. At the same time, solving the case, would give his grandfather’s spirit closure.

“Whack job,” D said. “Why do you want to hear this again?”

“Maybe it’s true,” Jake said. “And we’ll clear this case. Finally. My grandfather was still on the job when Carley Marie was killed. I was maybe fourteen. Boston went crazy, I still remember it. Girl’s body discovered by a family on a picnic. The Lilac Sunday killer.” Jake blew out a breath, picturing those thick black headlines in the Register and the Record.

“Grandpa would talk about it, nights. It was a huge deal. Weighed on him. How Carley’s family was so distraught. He ‘went to his grave,’ Grandma Brogan still says, regretting his squad of murder cops never caught the Lilac Sunday killer.”

Ryan also introduces tension into the relationship between Jane and Brogan, up to the boiling point. After breaking up and getting back together several times, they face the question of where do they go from here? Do they come out as a couple, which would create all kinds of problems given their respective professions? Or do they continue to keep their relationship a secret? Their relationship takes another hit when Jake has to cancel a planned vacation to fly to Washington, DC for work.

No more stalling. It had been six months, eight? They’d danced around this. Dated others, briefly and unenthusiastically. Jane, at least, always testing the unfortunate candidate against the template of Jake: his brain, his compassion, his sense of humor. And his body. The challenger always lost, so often Jane felt guilty about continuing. This weekend, she and Jake were— Jane smiled again, or maybe she hadn’t stopped— going for it. It was too difficult, they’d decided, always living in a created reality. Sneaking around was unpleasant. Distressing. Tiring. But what could possibly happen to change their situation? Jane couldn’t imagine, now, giving up her job at the paper. She was a journalist, after all; finally back on her feet after the horrible lawsuit. Was she supposed to change careers?

Ryan adds a third person to the equation, lawyer Peter Hardesty. Not only is he a handsome widower, but he represents both the confessed Lilac Sunday killer and Sandoval, the local man whose foreclosed house became a crime scene. The relationship between Jane and Jake is the special sauce that turns what could have been a routine mystery to a more complex brew.  There is miscommunication galore, and resentment when neither one can be completely forthcoming about what they are working on.

The novel does a slow burn, as the reader is privy not only to the POV of Jane and Jake, but also of Hardesty and several minor characters. Emotionally, Jane and Jake are dealing with a lot. Jane feels off-balance at work and in her personal relationship. Jake, on the other hand, has a personal stake in the Lilac Sunday killing. He can’t afford to make any mistakes that could potentially set a killer free. The novel eventually picks up pace as the wheels start to turn and the mystery unravels like a ball of yarn.

Truth Be Told raises as many questions as it answers: Is a lie always bad? Does the truth always set you free? What happens when what you believe is true turns out to be a lie? Ryan certainly has way with a tale and an a journalistic eye for the telling detail; the resulting story is one that is both timely and current. Truth Be Told is a story of financial and emotional manipulation, and the primal need that most humans have for home, family, and love.


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Elizabeth Kerri Mahon loves to write about Scandalous Women and the men that loved them. Her first book, Scandalous Women, was published by Perigee Books in March 2011. Visit her at

Read all posts by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon for Criminal Element.

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