Skip to main content

Trust Me


Trust Me

“Only Ashlyn.”

That’s the prosecutor’s mantra in the murder trial of Baby Boston, aka Tasha Nicole Bryant; only Ashlyn could have killed Tasha. The child’s ravaged body was found in a garbage bag, dumped in Boston Harbor. The mother, Ashlyn, swears she didn’t do it. That’s no surprise. What defendant doesn’t flat-out deny guilt? For now, though, she sits in jail, awaiting trial. And the reigning opinion goes that only Ashlyn could have done it. At least, that’s what Mercer Hennessey firmly believes from all she’s heard.

Mercer used to write for City magazine. That was before she decided to play mom. That was before. That was back when Mercer had her dream life: a beautiful daughter whom she adored and a husband she loved beyond words. But one day, that dream life ended with a car crash. The two people she cared about most --- gone. So she can’t look at Ashlyn Bryant without feeling extreme loathing. How could a mother kill her own child? Just the idea repulses Mercer. She cannot even imagine what kind of monster would do that.

"Hank Phillippi Ryan’s stand-alone psychological thriller has more twists and turns than Lombard Street in San Francisco, and takes you down a slope as slippery."

Katherine, Mercer’s friend and former editor, has called with a rather awful request: please, Mercer, cover Ashlyn Bryant’s murder trial and write an “instant” book, meaning essentially have it ready to print when the jury delivers the guilty verdict. And they will. Of course they will. This is a slam-dunk for the prosecutor. And for Mercer. Katherine means well; she really does. Mercer has been mourning --- more than mourning, actually --- for over a year since the accident. This book will put her back in the spotlight, get her name out there again, and quite possibly save her life. She needs to do this, Katherine says, for her emotional well-being. Besides, Mercer is the best writer for the job.

Once she has agreed to write the book, Mercer jumps into the project with the tenacity she remembers from before. She believes, as does the prosecutor, that “only Ashlyn” could have killed Tasha. That makes it easy for the words to flow onto the paper as she listens to the evidence pour forth. Witness after witness tells their story, and Mercer writes her scenes. The book is coming together beautifully. As soon as the jury says “Guilty,” it will fly off the shelves. But then Ashlyn wants to tell her own story. The dead girl’s mom has always maintained her innocence, so it’s her turn to let the world know what happened. Even though Mercer doesn’t believe her, she thinks Fair enough, let her try to clear the air. She’ll listen and then decide how to write her book.

The trouble is, Ashlyn “creates her own reality.” She even admits she’s really good at making stuff up. No wonder; she does it a lot. The woman is a master manipulator. So where does the fiction leave off and the truth begin? Mercer asks herself that question frequently and has difficulty answering. Sometimes she almost believes Ashlyn, but then she finds some of her explanations too fantastical. Ashlyn even manages to convince Mercer that her own life is in jeopardy. Is she toying with her, or is the danger real? What’s to be believed?

Hank Phillippi Ryan’s stand-alone psychological thriller has more twists and turns than Lombard Street in San Francisco, and takes you down a slope as slippery. Just when you think you have it figured out, Ashlyn comes up with another story. She tells one, then says it’s a lie, then claims it was true, but maybe not. In the end, you’ll have to figure out who killed baby Bryant. Ashlyn certainly won’t help. Or maybe she will. Trust me, though, you’ll have chills when you finish this one.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on August 24, 2018

Trust Me
by Hank Phillippi Ryan