Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan

First Sentence:  Do you know me?
Journalist Mercer Hennessy struggles daily with the loss of her husband and child who died in an automobile accident. Reminiscent of the Casey Anthony case, Ashlyn Bryant is about to go on trial for the murder of her daughter Tasha Nicole, yet she swears she is innocent.  Believing Ashlyn is guilty, Mercer accepts the assignment from her editor Katherine Craft to watch a live courtroom feed and write an "instant book" about the trial to be released as soon as the verdict is pronounced. When events don't go as planned, Mercer attempts to learn what is true.
Breaking this book down by the elements and beginning with its hook, there is no question but that the opening captures one's attention.  The pain and grief conveyed in the opening are palpable and relatable to anyone who has experienced extreme loss, as well as the pain of being left behind—"Dex will never be thirty-six.  Sophie will never be four.  Tasha Nicole Bryant will never be three.  I'll keep changing, though.  And keep wondering why." More than that, one is able to empathize with Mercer and the stages through which she goes throughout the story.   Ryan's perspective on the balance of life rings so true—"We live in such a fragile equilibrium.  When one thing changes, everything else has to readjust, same as when a new person steps onto an elevator.  People move, shift positions, make sure that the remaining room is properly allocated." 
What is nice is that in the midst of the sorrow and drama, there is Voice; this character who is only heard, never seen until the very end, who provides touches of light amongst the darkness, and normalcy within the drama—"'You need coffee?' Voice asks.  As if he's talking to me. 'Praise this morning's delay, team, you've still got fifteen minutes.'  'Thanks, Voice,' I say.  'Good idea.'"
This truly is a book of two parts.  In the first part, Ryan once again proves that well-written courtroom scenes can be as suspenseful as any other type of confrontation.  What sets these scenes apart is that the protagonist is neither in the actual courtroom nor personally involved with the hearing.  Yet while Mercer is watching the trial remotely, one is envisioning it, and it works.  Although the end of Part 1 is rather expected, it does leave one wondering as to where the story is headed.
Part 2 takes a major turn and one quickly realizes how subjective is the truth, and how effectively Ryan has done her job.  Even Mercer muses that--“Maybe we never know that truth, since it’s so inescapably transformed by our own point of view.” True to the title, one has incorporated Mercer's views into one's own despite the internal thoughts of "But wait" creating doubt.  Ryan has caused one to not want the answers to those doubts even though they are necessary.  The bigger question is whether one can "trust" the author.
There is so much which cannot be said for fear of any spoilers.  What can be said is that the story within the story is incredibly twisty.  Part 1 is approximately the first half of the book and it's excellent.  Parts 2 and 3 take one down the rabbit hole as we start to lose faith in the protagonist.  We know she is vulnerable; we don't expect her to be naïve.  There is also quite a bit of redundancy.  Does the story seem overly long?  Yes; 50-100 fewer pages might have increased the tension of the story.  Still, the book is a fairly quick read, although one may find oneself skimming a fair amount in the latter two parts.   
Was the ending satisfactory?  It depends.  There is a major thread left dangling.  For those who prefer feeling justice has been served, as usually found in most police procedurals, traditional, and cozy mysteries, and although one knows justice isn't a given, the end is frustrating. However, it may not bother those who enjoy psychological suspense and don't mind an unresolved or ambiguous ending. 
"Trust Me" is twisty, psychological suspense.  It's not perfect, but the very end and the epilogue make up for quite a lot.
TRUST ME (Psy Susp-Mercer Hennessy-Boston-Contemp) - Good
      Ryan, Hank Phillippi - Standalone
      Forge Books – Aug 2018

1 comment:

  1. Hmm...interesting. I can enjoy an ambiguous ending, depending on what the circumstances are, and how well it's done. And it does sound as though there are some interesting characters here. I give Ryan credit for not doing 'the usual.'