When I tried to think through the twisty, spiraling plot of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s latest thriller The Murder List (Forge Books), I couldn’t figure it out. As soon as I thought I had the answer and knew what was going on, it would slither away as new facts surfaced.
Rachel North is a 36-year-old law student, feeling old among the other young law students. She’s married to Jack, a criminal defense attorney. The two one day will work together offering a solid defense to their clients. But their marriage has some holes; in fact, there are lots of holes between them – personally and professionally, and in their pasts.
There are secrets. There are deceptions. There are other people involved, littering their histories here and there with a mystery or two, a lie or two, a threat or two. There are jealousies and there is revenge.
So what happened in the past?
And who knows the truth? Does Rachel? Does Jack? Or does someone else? Are they waiting to reveal it?
Told through three different viewpoints – Rachel’s, Jack’s, and Martha’s (a powerful prosecuting attorney) – we get three different perspectives of what’s going on in a murder case.
The Murder List could be called a legal thriller, because of the occupations of the characters. That Jack defends murderers as a criminal defense attorney and that Rachel’s intent is to become a defense attorney only adds to the murkiness.
It could also be called a murder mystery as we have one murder, then another, and one wonders if there is a list, a plan, a manipulator in back of the whole plot.
Finally, it could be called a domestic thriller, because Rachel and Jack are married and their marriage is in the middle of a legal and personal vortex. It’s a story that revolves around loyalty and love, trust and devotion, betrayal and suspicion. It’s about how far people will go to keep their vows… and at what point they give them up.
Personal and professional relationships change throughout the story, back and forth, and when one thinks one has it figured out, the relationships will shift again. The question is, how far will one person go to get what they want and who are they willing to hurt in the process? What does their conscience say? Do they have a conscience?
The Murder List also brings up many questions about justice, the justice system, prosecutors and defense attorneys and the unfairness within the system. Yet it also shows how hard people fight to do the right thing within that very same system.
Ryan has won 36 Emmys for investigative reporting. She knows of what she speaks – and writes.
This is such a layered and complicated and deliciously gripping book, I have to put it at the top of my thriller list. I bet you might, too.
The Murder List is now available.
About Hank Phillippi Ryan:
Hank is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV. She’s won 36 Emmys and dozens more journalism honors. The nationally bestselling author of 11 mysteries, Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, three Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Critics call her “a master of suspense” and “a superb and gifted storyteller” and she is the only author to have won the Agatha in four different categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Non-Fiction. Her novels have been named Library Journal’s Best of 2014, 2015 and 2016. Hank is a founder of MWA University and past president of National Sisters in Crime.