The three D’s of writing popular fiction --- deadlines, desire and deception --- have catapulted Hank Phillippi Ryan to headline news for her Charlotte McNally series of mysteries. In July 2009, her debut, PRIME TIME, was a prestigious Agatha Winner for Best First Novel. The following month, FACE TIME was selected as a BookSense Notable Book. And in September, AIR TIME was nominated for a 2009 Agatha Award for Best Novel.
In her fourth book, DRIVE TIME, Ryan shows us she is serious about garnering recognition for her writing as she draws on her experience as an Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter for WHDH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Boston. She lives the life of her heroine, Charlotte “Charlie” McNally, daily as she confronts corrupt politicians, chases down criminals and captures revealing video for her on-air reports.
At age 47, Charlie is at the top of her game as an investigative journalist. She and her team of producers and cameramen have a shelf of Emmys to display as a result of their blockbuster stories. Engaged to be married to Bexter Academy professor Joshua Gelston, a successful, savvy and sexy stakeout partner, Charlie has just stumbled upon a stolen car scheme that promises to be ratings sweeps gold as well as two mysterious deaths at the Academy. Both mysteries consume Charlie as she works to unravel the truth.
It is this savvy nature that shines in Ryan’s publicity materials. Her talent for being on the air and appreciating the value of promoting herself is solidified with a simple color bookmark displaying her books and accolades. Her business card conveys her dual careers --- NBC reporter by day on the front and mystery writer on the back. Ryan is successful in being in two places at once --- something that her protagonist struggles with in DRIVE TIME. These tried and true publicity methods show attention to the details it takes to shine in a crowded market and sell books, whether it is print or broadcast media.
Charlie struggles with an invitation from her boss, Kevin, to join him at the network in New York. She knows she’s fortunate to be on the air at her age, but solidifies her presence in the Boston market through stories that make a difference and the ability to keep a secret and use that knowledge when it counts. The rollercoaster pace of DRIVE TIME, from high-speed chases following hot leads to a clandestine nighttime stakeout, places the reader on the edge and behind the scenes of the daily life of a television reporter. The bottom line is that deadlines, desire and deception drive ratings.
Charlie’s relationship with Franklin, her producer, is the lifeblood of her success. They have worked together as a team to win the Emmys that their jobs demand. Cracking the stories that become headline news is second nature, and Charlie balances camera time with personal time. She is torn between an evening glass of wine with her fiancé and his adoring daughter, Penny, and the lure of network television in New York. Stay tuned for Charlie’s next big story: her wedding day.
Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on January 21, 2011