Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Reviews: Prime Time & Face Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Mira, 2009
Crime Fiction; 280 pgs
Source: Book provided by Nancy Berland Public Relations, Inc. for review.
Rating: * (Very Good)

Journalism in its written form has always interested me. Maybe I feel a kinship still from my days of working on the middle school newspaper or when I was a part-time receptionist for a small town newspaper one summer during college (it was my favorite job right after working in the university library). Some of my favorite crime fiction authors were journalists, Michael Connelly and Karen E. Olson, for example. And so when I was offered the opportunity to try television's investigative reporter Hank Ryan Phillippi's series, I admit to being more than curious. Going into the series, I honestly did not know much about what went on behind the scenes of a local news station. I couldn't wait to find out--even if it was through fiction.
Between the hot flashes, the hangover and all the spam on my computer, there's no way I'll get anything done before eight o'clock this morning. I came in early to get ahead and already I'm behind. [pg 7, Prime Time]
Charlie McNally is a 46 year old award winning investigative reporter in Boston. In a career where your face and age can mean everything, Charlie has to prove herself at every turn in an already extremely competitive field. Once she has caught the scent of a good story she is dogged in her research and will risk life and limb to get it. She has a top notch producer by her side who is with her at every turn.

In Prime Time, Charlie must come up with a big story for November sweeps or risk losing her job to someone younger who they only have to pay half as much. A possible story falls into their laps when a widow agrees to do an interview with the news station after news of her missing husband's death comes out. It isn't until that interview that Charlie learns the deceased had sent her an e-mail seeking her help before his death. Two other people received the same e-mail, a private school literature teacher and another man who no one seems to know. Meanwhile, Charlie begins looking closer at the spam that is filling her e-mail in-box. Some of the spam is different than the rest. The further Charlie gets in her investigation, the more it looks like something shady is going on in the corporate world--and it involves a lot of money and possibly murder.

The author takes the reader behind the scenes of the news stations: touching on the deadlines, station politics, and the attempt to balance ratings with journalism. Charlie knows some of the assignments she is given can be exploitative, but it is clear that Charlie has integrity. I loved reading about Franklin and Charlie in action as they put what seemed like random information together and began piecing it together. The final outcome was satisfying.

Prime Time gets Ryan's series off to a running start. It is an entertaining and a quick read. Charlie's sense of humor adds to the levity of the crime at hand and a little romance completes the package.

Author Hank Phillippi Ryan picks up again with Charlotte McNally in Face Time. Summer sweeps are fast approaching and Charlie and her producer Franklin think they may have their next big story. A woman who confessed to killing her husband three years before may actually be innocent. New evidence uncovered suggests as much; however, Charlie has her work cut out for her when the woman she is trying to get out of prison is not willing to cooperate with her investigation. What does she have to hide? Is she trying to protect her daughter who had been the only other one in the home at the time of murder? Adding to that complication is the fact that the prosecuting attorney, now the Attorney General, who put the woman behind bars is running for governor. If it comes to light that his investigation was at all corrupted, it could mean the end of his political career. Charlie's curiosity and determination to get her story earn her as many enemies as it does friends. The more she digs, the more bodies turn up, and it looks like Charlie herself may be a target.
It's statistically impossible that my mother is always right, so why doesn't she seem to know it? [pg 7, Face Time]
As an aside to the main story line involving the murder investigation, the author also touches on the topic of mother/daughter relationships. Charlie has a good but sometimes strained relationship with her mother who never seems quite satisfied with her daughter's lifestyle. She finds that looking at her own relationship with her mother can be helpful to her investigation of the story, trying to understand the dynamics between the mother who is had been convicted of murdering her husband and the daughter. In a different kind of mother/daughter relationship, Charlie meets her boyfriend's 8-year-old daughter for the first time. Finding a way to connect to the girl proves to be a bit of a challenge.

In the second novel in the series, Charlie continues to struggle with the fact that she is getting older in a job where being young is an asset. Her mother has just had cosmetic surgery and Charlie wonders if perhaps she should too. The author paints a realistic impression of what it must be like for women in the television field.

I wasn't as enamored with Face Time as I was with the first book in the series, perhaps because the story was a tad predictable. That said, there are still enough twists that kept me on my toes, and I enjoyed getting to know Charlie even more. I just love Franklin and do hope to see more of him in the books to come.

Both Prime Time and Face Time can be read as stand alones or as a series. Prime Time offers more of a introduction to the main characters and their relationships than Face Time, and so it might be a good idea to start there if you are a reader who likes to follow the character back-stories in chronological order. However, the author did a very good job of not revealing the mystery from the first book in the second (it was touched on, but in vague terms), so if you are concerned about spoilers, don't be.

Face Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Mira, 2009
Crime Fiction; 280 pgs
Source: Book provided by Nancy Berland Public Relations, Inc. for review.
Rating: * (Good +)

Stay tuned because I will be reviewing Air Time and Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan!

Check out the author's website for more information about her books.

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Great review, Wendy!
    I have not heard anything about Hank Phillippi Ryan's books but I'll definitely keep a look out for them after reading your review.

  2. Your review makes me want to read the books...especially Prime Time. I think this would be a good one to have on my Kindle for airplane trips!

  3. The books sound so good, but the covers don't do them justice, in my opinion.

  4. These sound very good, and this is the first I've heard about them. Thanks for the head's up.

  5. These aren't my usual thing, but they do sound like fun reading!

    (And it's interesting that you've got the whole series for review - that just happened to me, but with a different author/series.)

  6. I quite like the cover... I haven't heard of this author but would certainly like to find out more. Thanks for the review, Wendy!

    I like Karen E. Olson's books too. She's a great person!

  7. I have quite a few of her books to get to. I really need to start reading more of my own books! Maybe these will move up to the top of the list! Great review!

  8. Melody - Thank you! I have a feeling you would like them, Melody. :-)

    Kathleen - I really enjoyed Prime Time. I think these would make great books to read on the plane. Their quick and fun.

    Kathy - Yeah, the covers make the books seem more romance-y than they are, I think, which can be a turn off. I might have passed them by based on that fact alone. The books are good though, so if you can, look past the covers! :-)

    Diane - I hadn't heard of the books before this summer. Now I have another favorite series to add to my must read list. :-)

    Florinda - They are fun and I like Charlie.

    Wasn't that nice of the publicist to send me the whole series (and you too your series!)? I might not have discovered the series had she not offered the books to me. I can think of a couple of people on my Christmas list who would love these books (their own copies, of course). :-)

    Alice - They're kind of sexy, aren't they? I hope you'll give the books a try. I think you'd enjoy them!

    I wish it was time for Karen Olson's next book in the ink series to come out. I hate waiting. LOL

    Kristie - I'd really like to know what you think when you get to them, Kristie.

    I know what you mean about needing to read more of your own books. I really need to too.

  9. Wow! What a wonderful review and thoughtful--and what a lovely way to start the day. Thank you!

    It's so rewarding to think of you all reading the books--after thirty years as a Tv reporter, it was quite a change to trurn to writing fiction! But just as with television, it's all about telling a great story--and all about the passion for justice.

    IN AIR TIME--well, have any of you had your luggage lost by the airlines? (I'm raising my hand.) ANd have any of you ever wondered about those counterfeit designer purses--how do they get away with selling them right under the noses of law enforcement? As a mystery author and as a journalist, I always ask--"what if..." And from that, came AIR TIME--I promise you'll never look at airports the same way!

    And DRIVE TIME--just got a starred review from Library Journal! It's a real rave--saying it puts me in the same league as Lisa Scottoline. (Pretty nice league.)

    And you won't believe what happens to Charlie and Franklin!

    So today I'm at Channel 7 working on my next big story--but I'll be thinking of you!

    Keep in touch, okay? And check my website for the latest.

  10. Great review. Glad to see you liked these. I'm just starting the series!

  11. I don't usually read this kind of book, but these sound good! I always like how thorough your reviews are- I like when people quote from books in their reviews :-)

  12. I'm going to have to check out Prime Time. Very cool that she stopped by to chat :)

  13. I've read a few mysteries with a journalist main character but I don't really prefer them over any others. I tend to like culinary and book(shop, etc.) cozy mysteries the most.

  14. Lovely to read your write-up of an author I consider a friend and a colleague. And as another former journalist-turned-mystery author, I appreciate the shout-out to those of us who have made the jump!

  15. Hank - Thank you so much for stopping by! I am really enjoying your series and am glad you decided to give fiction writing a try. You've definitely got a me hooked.

    Dar - Thank you! I hope you will enjoy the series. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

    Aarti - Thank you. That's so nice of you to say! I'm enjoying the series so far. I enjoy mysteries though so it's almost a given that I would. :-)

    Stacy - I love it when an author takes the time to visit. :-) Although sometimes it makes me more nervous. LOL I hope you will give Prime Time a try!

    Jen - There's such a variety in the type of mysteries out there, isn't there? Something for everyone just about!

    Clea - Thank you, Clea. I think there will always be a special place in my heart for journalists--and authors. :-)

  16. so glad to see you liked this one! I have several I need to read and review..just haven't yet. Now I'm anxious to get to them.

  17. Kris - I hope you enjoy them. They're quite fun!


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