Truth Be Told
It is possible, though unlikely, that Hank Phillippi Ryan’s books have escaped your attention. Ryan, whose novels and short stories have received multiple awards in the mystery field, has earned many Emmy and Edward R. Murrow awards for her investigative and consumer-oriented television reporting. Her Jane Ryland series is no doubt based, at least in part, on some of her experiences in television journalism. TRUTH BE TOLD, her latest addition to the Ryland canon, again demonstrates front and center her experience with the ins and outs of reporting, as well as the often fragile relationship that the press maintains with law enforcement.
As TRUTH BE TOLD opens, Jane is still smarting from her summary (and unfair) dismissal from her television reporting position, as documented in THE OTHER WOMAN, the first volume in the series. However, she has landed reasonably well as a (somewhat low-rung) reporter at a Boston online newspaper, where she is able to utilize both her journalistic and on-camera skills to great effect. Jane is working on a story regarding home foreclosures and is on-site at a newly vacated residence that has been afflicted when a grisly discovery is made --- the body of Shandra Newbury, a murdered real estate agent who is found in an upstairs closet. Jake Brogan, a Boston police detective and Jane’s clandestine lover, is soon on the scene, and they find themselves walking the tightrope between their strangers-by-day/couple-by-night relationship, which skirts the ethics of both their professions as a theoretical and practical matter.
"Jake’s dogged investigative prowess, Jane’s reporting tenaciousness, their somewhat delicate relationship, and the mysteries that form the heart of the plot combine to make TRUTH BE TOLD one of Ryan’s best works to date."
The case could not come at a worse time for Jake. Just before he got the call regarding Shandra’s death, a man had voluntarily confessed to a notorious unsolved murder that had haunted the Boston Police Department for two decades. The case, known as the Lilac Sunday killing, originally had been investigated by Jake’s beloved grandfather, and his failure to obtain closure for the victim’s family had haunted him right up to the time of his death. Jake would love to close the case, but there is something off about the supposed killer’s confession. He wants nothing but the truth, regarding both the long-unsolved case and Shandra’s murder.
With respect to the latter, a suspect is identified and arrested in short order. Interestingly enough, it is the former owner of the foreclosed home. There is motive, opportunity and evidence, yet the man vehemently maintains his innocence. Jake has to sort out fact from fiction and the guilty from the innocent. Meanwhile, Jane finds that she is involved directly and indirectly in both cases, while her home foreclosure story threatens to uncover an interesting scandal or two involving a large Boston-area bank where two employees are skirting the rules --- one for personal gain and the other to play Robin Hood, if you will. Things get sorted out with a few surprises and some major and minor revelations, all leading to a very satisfying ending.
Hank Phillippi Ryan is every bit as good as you may have heard she is, and then some. She breathes new life into the investigative thriller with a jaw-dropping and darkly hilarious scene within the first few pages of the book. I’ve read accounts of evidence being inadvertently destroyed in novels before, but I don’t recall it ever having been done quite like this. It’s a story that has to have some basis in fact. Jake’s dogged investigative prowess, Jane’s reporting tenaciousness, their somewhat delicate relationship, and the mysteries that form the heart of the plot combine to make TRUTH BE TOLD one of Ryan’s best works to date.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 10, 2014