BOOK OF THE DAY

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Trust Me
By Hank Phillippi Ryan
Forge
$25.66
ISBN 978-0765393074
Publication Date: August 2018

Trust Me

Review by Sharon Marchisello

Trust Me (Forge 2018) is Hank Phillippi Ryan’s first standalone novel, and it stretches her talents to the next level.

Mercer Hennessey, the protagonist, has been paralyzed by grief since her husband and three-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident on a rainy night over a year ago. Her grief is so overpowering that every morning, she tracks the number of days since their deaths by drawing the figure in the condensation left on the mirror from her shower.

When the story opens, Mercer’s editor friend Katherine offers her an opportunity to heal by diving back into her profession as a journalist to cover the sensational trial of Ashlyn Bryant, a young woman accused of killing her three-year-old daughter and dumping the body into Boston Harbor. The plan is to turn the story into an instant bestseller.

What kind of monster would kill her own child? Ashlyn’s despicable act resonates particularly hard with Mercer as she reflects on her own anguish at the tragic loss of her daughter. The evidence seems to point overwhelmingly to Ashlyn’s guilt, yet the jury acquits her.

And just like that, the book project takes a new direction.

Katherine arranges for Ashlyn to give Mercer an exclusive to the “real” story. To facilitate progress on the book and keep Ashlyn safe from the derisive public eye, Ashlyn moves into Mercer’s home.

As a reader, I found myself as frustrated with Ashlyn as Mercer surely was. Every day Ashlyn makes up a new lie or conspiracy theory, contradicting herself and changing her story at every turn. She manipulates Mercer’s grief and survivor’s guilt. Although Mercer keeps trying to coax and trick Ashlyn into revealing the truth, Ashlyn makes Mercer question everything she thought she knew about her own life.

The author did a great job delving into the protagonist’s emotions and illustrating how many versions of truth can exist for the same set of circumstances.

Hank Phillippi Ryan still works as an investigative reporter, a career that has won her 34 Emmys and 14 Edward R. Murrow Awards. She writes the award-winning series starring investigative reporter Jane Ryland, as well as the Charlotte McNally series, also featuring a female journalist.

Sharon Marchisello (sharonmarchisello.com) is the author of Going Home, (Sunbury Press, 2014) a murder mystery inspired by her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She earned a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is a member of the Atlanta chapter of Sisters in Crime. She lives in Peachtree City, GA, with her husband and cat, does volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society, and writes a blog about personal finance, Countdown to Financial Fitness https://sharonmarchisello.blogspot.com/.