The Murder List
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Forge Books, August 2019
Launching on August 20th is Hank Phillippi Ryan’s latest novel, The Murder List. It is exciting, well-plotted, character driven, and eminently readable. I would have said it is a terrific beach read if CNN didn’t beat me to it, choosing it as an “Ultimate Beach Read”! That said – and with due respect to CNN – The Murder List is so much more than that. The story revolves around Rachel North, a law student who has scored a summer internship in the office of a well-known and powerful Assistant District Attorney (“ADA”). One problem, though, Rachel’s husband, Jack Kirkland, a brilliant criminal defense attorney is opposed to her taking the job because he and the ADA have history and do not like each other. However, Rachel and Jack have a plan to be partners defending people charged with murder after Rachel finishes law school and gains the qualifications she needs to be put on the murder list (that is, attorneys qualified to handle murder cases). So, Rachel is unwilling to pass up the opportunity to see how murder cases are handled from the prosecution side. Arriving on her first day, she meets her fellow interns and her boss, ADA Martha Gardiner.
In the first hour, Gardiner takes her to the scene of a murder where Rachel is left outside to babysit the suspect’s nephew, leaving her with the feeling that her boss doesn’t really think much of her. But after a court appearance the next day Gardiner invites Rachel to lunch. From then on, their working relationship grows to the point where the ADA invites Rachel to work on a murder case she is personally handling. For Rachel, this is a great opportunity because if she and Jack follow their plan, Rachel will need to be on the murder list, as Jack already is. And, of course, Rachel who is not even out of law school, is nowhere near qualified to get on that list. But the experience she will gain assisting the ADA will give her budding career a big boost.
While Rachel works on the murder case, her fellow interns are working on other matters which, according to them, are not at all as interesting as her case. But, as Rachel’s work progresses, the evidence in her murder case is mounting against someone close to her which is making her anxious and frightened. Forbidden to talk with anyone but Gardiner about the case, Rachel is unsure what to do but, as ordered, keeps all case-related information to herself.
As mentioned above, The Murder List is an exciting read with its unexpected twists and turns. My only complaint is that I lost sleep over it – I didn’t finish it until 3:00 a.m. but I just couldn’t put it down. Don’t miss this!
Reviewed by Melinda Drew, August 2019.