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Trust Me Bets On...

Trust Me

September 2018

With TRUST ME, Hank Phillippi Ryan has written her first stand-alone novel, which challenges an author as she steps away from writing her series character. I like it when authors challenge themselves. I like it even better when they brilliantly succeed. The protagonist, Mercer Hennessey, is a journalist who is grieving the loss of her husband, Dex, and daughter, Sophie. Her grief is raw. She wakes up each day, and in the steam on the bathroom mirror notes the number of days since they passed away. At the start we know they died in a car accident; later we learn more about this. Mercer’s own grief makes her vulnerable. What can draw her from the fog that has overshadowed her life?

In comes an assignment. Mercer is asked to write a quickie true-crime book about a high-profile trial. Ashlyn Bryant is on trial for killing her baby girl. Instead of going into the courtroom, Mercer can watch the trial online each day from her home, which is just the kind of task that is perfect in her present state of mind. She watches hours of testimony trying to shape her story. There are holes in it, but then Ashlyn is found to be not guilty. But much like the real-life case where people thought Casey Anthony was guilty, though the jury pronounced her innocent, Mercer wonders what is really going on. Who can be trusted? Can Ashlyn be?

“There are three sides to every story. Yours. Mine. And the truth.” Never does this feel as true as it does as when Mercer tries to unpeel the character of Ashlyn. Just who is this woman? Hank is a seasoned investigative journalist, and she puts those talents to work here, looking at Ashlyn from all angles and in telling this story.

As I was reading, I tried to peel back the story, but my usual techniques of looking at the layers to figure it out had me stymied more than once. I found myself wanting to read the last chapter, as I was so curious as to how this was going to wrap. Humorously, Hank has told me that she often does this. She is always curious about the ending, but even though she was the author here, I held back on that.

It's terrific, and the switchbacks do come together and work. I hope that Hank stretches and writes another stand-alone. While I have liked her series work, this is writing on a whole other level.

Trust Me
by Hank Phillippi Ryan