cover image The Murder List

The Murder List

Hank Phillippi Ryan. Forge, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-19721-4

Early in this disappointing legal thriller from Mary Higgins Clark Award winner Ryan (the Jane Ryland series), Harvard Law student Rachel North accepts an internship with Martha Gardiner, the first assistant district attorney of Middlesex County, Mass. This decision raises tensions with Rachel’s husband, Jack Kirkland, a preeminent Boston defense attorney who recently lost a high-profile murder case to Martha. Martha throws Rachel into the middle of a fresh homicide case, the killing of nurse Tassie Lyle, implausibly having her take an active role in the investigation. The inquiry soon zeroes in on a pizza deliveryman who was a hospital patient of the victim’s and who may have been working with her to sell drugs. The action is interrupted first by flashbacks to Rachel’s previous life as a political aide to Thomas Rafferty, the president of the state senate, who stops by her apartment late at night to leave an envelope with her for safekeeping. More flashbacks reveal the unlikely start to Rachel’s relationship with Jack. Details that don’t ring true to life only accentuate the soap opera–ish plot, which builds to an unsatisfying ending. Ryan has done better and will do so again. Agent: Lisa Gallagher, DeFiore & Co. (Aug.)