Written by Hank Phillippi Ryan – The Other Woman is a title, and a phrase, shot through with double meaning in Ryan’s engaging thriller. Double meanings abound throughout Ryan’s tale, much to my delight. The publisher is billing the upcoming paperback release as a ‘beach read’, and you could do worse than schlep The Other Woman to your summer recreation of choice. But even if you’re not heading to the beach anytime soon, you’ll still want to pick up The Other Woman and enjoy the suspense.
Hank Phillippi Ryan is an investigative reporter for Boston TV station WHDH, and her intimate knowledge of the news business is reflected in her protagonist Jane Ryland, a television news reporter fired in the wake of a slander suit. Ryland reported that Boston grocery magnate Arthur Vick was a patron of call girl Sellica Darden, but Vick sued for slander. The journalist refused to name her source, and couldn’t prove that Vick actually had used Ms Darden’s services. The television station lost a one million dollar judgment, and Jane Ryland lost her job.
As The Other Woman begins, Jane Ryland is transitioning to a less prestigious newspaper job with the Boston Register. A close Senate race and a serial killer are in the headlines, but Jane is given the relatively unimportant task of securing an interview with Senate candidate Owen Lassiter’s wife. Moira Lassiter has been absent on the campaign trail, and Jane tries to find out why. As it turns out, Moira Lassiter wants to get in touch with Jane Ryland as well.
Moira Lassiter fears that her husband Owen is cheating on her. Jane Ryland wants a big story to redeem herself after the Vick case and starts searching for the other woman, as per the title. A mysterious woman in red seems to pop up frequently at Lassiter campaign rallies, arousing Ryland’s suspicion. Lassiter himself seems awfully solicitous toward a certain campaign volunteer.
Meanwhile, Sellica Darden is found dead, a seeming victim of the Bridge Killer. Young women are turning up dead near bridges, but Boston police deny that they are the victims of a serial killer. The public, however, is not convinced and apprehension mounts. All Jane Ryland wants is to find Lassiter’s mistress, and maybe clear her name in the slander suit, but after Darden’s death she begins to fear for her own safety.
Ryan expertly weaves the various subplots together. Red herrings abound, and this thriller is never predictable. If you’re looking for suspense, you will find it from the get-go in The Other Woman. Jane is an endearing protagonist, and you will be drawn into her story and care what happens to her as the story progresses. Jake Brogan is a Boston detective and friend of Jane’s (though she’s tempted to make him more), and figures prominently into The Other Woman as he investigates Bridge Killer victims and attempts to keep Jane safe. While a supporting character, Jake is no less engaging, though his backstory may seem too good to be plausible.
Other subplots have characters that may not be as appealing, but can certainly your attention and keep you guessing. The author shifts perspective frequently from character to character, and from subplot to subplot. This ratchets up the suspense, though the pacing borders on frenetic at times. But it’s hard to be too annoyed at the frequent cliffhangers, and much easier to just keep reading and find out what happens next when Ryan swings back around to whatever character you want to know more about.
Some of the twists and turns may strain credulity, but they do so only in hindsight and once you’ve finished the book. While you’re reading The Other Woman, anything seems possible, and that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next. Hank Phillippi Ryan combines inside knowledge of reporting and Massachusetts politics with a propulsive plot and high suspense to make The Other Woman an addictive thriller you’ll want to pick up before the summer is over.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars