By now most readers know that Hank Phillippi Ryan was an Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter long before she was a multi-award-winning crime fiction author, so it only makes sense that reporters in various forms have populated almost all of her fiction work. That trend continues with her latest stand-alone suspense novel, Her Perfect Life.
Her Perfect Life tells the story of Lily Atwood, a successful television reporter juggling a skyrocketing career and single motherhood with grace and professionalism. The novel wastes no time in also outlining the stresses this stardom brings to the table – namely keeping her beloved daughter, Rowen, out of the social media spotlight.
Standing beside (albeit slightly behind) Lily is her long-time producer, Greer. She is a strong woman with aspirations of her own who understands that the nature of the business means her contributions may go somewhat under the radar, even as she longs for perhaps a bit more recognition for her loyalty and guidance over the years.
And then there is a third woman, Cassie. She is Lily’s sister who went missing years ago – a situation that continues to haunt Lily even as she tries to bury any knowledge of it from her adoring public.
Hank Phillippi Ryan is never one to take the easy route in her storytelling, so these three points-of-view intermingle over the course of the narrative. Two of these POVs (Lily and Cassie) are third-person, with Lily’s being present day and Cassie’s being set in the past. The third point-of-view – Greer’s – is told in first person predominantly in present day with recollections of the past. Keeping these various threads going without becoming convoluted is a tricky highwire act of writing, which Hank Phillippi Ryan accomplishes with ease.
When a confidential informant who has been feeding Lily story tips for years begins to send her cryptic messages that seem to imply he knows more about Lily’s past than anyone should, the dynamic between Lily and Greer shifts. In order to maintain the perfect life she has built for herself, Lily is going to need to make some difficult – and maybe painful – decisions. Either way, it will require facing the legacy of Cassie’s disappearance – a task that just might be Lily’s first failure.
Hank Phillippi Ryan keeps the chapters short and with skillfully-placed chapter cliffhangers, she lures readers into consuming Her Perfect Life as quickly as possible. As with many of her standalone suspense novels, Her Perfect Life, has some last-minute twists that alter many aspects of the story readers will have thought they had figured out. But, it is Hank Phillippi Ryan’s knowledge of television reporting and the inner-workings of the business that truly shines in this latest. Readers will feel as though they are getting an insider’s look at the life of a reporter – something that often looks glamourous from the outside, but which also contains stresses and struggles unique to being in the public’s view 24/7.
In many ways, Her Perfect Life was a tale Hank Phillippi Ryan was destined to tell, but it will not be a surprise to her loyal fans that she manages to do so in an unexpected and thrilling way.
Disclaimer: An e-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.