There is no denying it, Hank Phillippi Ryan has a way with words; anytime she puts pen to paper, the resulting prose is guaranteed to provide readers with hours of escapism. Simply put, Hank Phillippi Ryan is a born storyteller, with the skills to transform any tale into a compelling narrative. Her new novel may be called The First to Lie, but there is no falsehood in that introduction.
In The First to Lie, Hank Phillippi Ryan presents readers with a collection of characters all of whom are lying – to each other, to themselves, to their loved one, to society, and maybe even to the reader. For a large chuck of the book, readers hear a tale about three women – Ellie, Meg, and Nora – who are all circling the same story, but for seemingly different, yet related, reasons. That story involves a pharmaceutical company and one of their drugs, in particular. As we read, we meet the men in their lives, some waiting room patients and the doctors treating them, and the executives at Pharminex. As we find out more about why these women are taking these actions, their intricate web of lies will keep readers guessing.
About a quarter of the way into the novel, Ryan throws in two more perspectives. These are from the past. Both are tied to the family that owns the pharmaceutical empire – one by birth and the other by marriage. In pure storytelling mode, these chapters set in and around Annapolis, as well as on the Chesapeake Bay, delight even as they provide another portion of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s overall jigsaw puzzle. How these individuals from years earlier mesh with the original three protagonists and their particular cast of characters is slowly revealed as the twisted legacy of this family comes to light.
Each character is provided their own authentic voice and every reader is sure to have their own favorite(s). Hank Phillippi Ryan embeds enough clues early on for astute readers to figure out some of the truth, but she also places plenty of red herrings designed to throw readers off the scent. Some readers may successfully unearth a secret or two as they read, but few will predict exactly how those facts fit together in the end.
Hank Phillippi Ryan keeps things moving at a quick pace by utilizing point of view shifts, cliffhanger chapter endings, and good old-fashion subterfuge to keep readers ensnared in her fictional world. The First to Lie is one of those “just one more chapter” novels that ultimately ends up keeping you awake all night and calling in sick the following day, simply so that you can finish reading it.
The author has told us with her title, that lies play a pivotal role in the plotting of this suspense thriller. But if no one is telling the truth, why does it matter who lied first? Ah, but it does! Trust me, Hank Phillippi Ryan skillfully keeps almost everything readers need to know under wraps for most of the novel – until that moment when her plot magically coalesces into a devastating picture and readers find themselves furiously flipping through the pages with shocked expressions upon their face. The First to Lie is another award-worthy novel from an author who is consistently able to try new things without ever sacrificing quality.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.