In her latest release, The First to Lie, Hank Phillippi Ryan draws you into a complex web of dishonesty, deceit and duplicity. Told from the perspective of several unusual, sometimes evasive, and never completely honest heroines, The First to Lie quickly introduces you to Ellie and Nora, and the very heart of the action.
Ellie Berensen is playing perhaps the most dangerous game of all. Determined to bring in the biggest scoop of her career, the Boston-based journalist soon finds herself telling one small lie after another, as the stakes get higher and higher. Aided by the mysterious and calculating Gabe and the ethically-challenged Meg, Ellie is investigating Pharminex, the same large pharmaceutical corporation that Nora Quinn has just started working for.
A successful sales rep, Nora is pushing Monifan, the new wonder drug that can help women who are struggling to conceive. But Nora is also pursuing her own agenda, and hiding behind lies of her own. Soon, the lies start to spin too far. Far out of each of the character’s control. Begging the question, will the real truth come out before it’s too late?
The First to Lie is Ryan at her recent best; drawing her characters into a precarious cat and mouse act, while skillfully exploring the consequences of lying and the dangers of violating journalistic ethics. Ryan expertly juggles storytelling alongside character development; Ellie and Nora’s masks slip just enough to build suspense, but not enough to reveal anyone’s true agenda up until the final pages.
Towards the end however, seasoned thriller readers may be left disappointed. Seemingly determined to fit in as many twists and turns as possible, Ryan layers in numerous double-identity reveals, each more improbable than the last. The rich tapestry of betrayal, treachery and greed, masterfully weaved over the preceding thirty chapters, is pulled apart quickly in the last three.
If you can suspend your disbelief it’s easily possible to lose yourself in the five-time Agatha Award winner’s captivating page-turner. Only the most masterful of mystery writers can build suspense throughout multiple timelines, using multiple identities, allowing the reader to follow along, while questioning everything they know.
There’s still much to savour in Ryan’s polished writing, well-nuanced characters and consummate pacing. The misplaced family loyalties, hidden agendas and long held vendettas may not keep you guessing for long, but they will keep the pages turning.
Pages: 345 | ASIN: B07WYSGYDT
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Room 11 is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a suspense, thriller, and medical drama as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I must admit that Room 11 came to life in a strange way. The wife’s chapters, a mixture of yearning dreams and angry nightmare-like rants, were written separately, in an attempt to record the disparate strong emotions I felt during the few days just after I miscarried my third child, but which I had to put away at the time as I was attending a family wedding. On their own, though, these chapters were not enough for a novel, and they were almost impossible to fit in any larger narrative because they felt so mad and enraged. This is when, watching one of my favourite movies ‘Talk to Her’ (by Almodovar), I thought of putting the wife in a coma. I had also recently finished reading ‘A Kind of Intimacy’ (Jenn Ashworth), which gave me further ideas for the nurse, a character coming from a very different place to the wife, tender deep inside, but who would allow me to explore a parallel take on obsession and delusion growing in a pained soul.
Room 11 gives two women’s accounts of the same events via their own dreamlike states; a comatose woman and an increasingly stalker-ish nurse. Why did you choose to tell the story through a dreamlike filter?
I think of my characters as icebergs, living only ten percent of what they dream underwater, which to them feels more real than their everyday lives. My nurse may not get up to much in my novel, neither my wife; but their inner worlds hope to reveal humanity at its most extraordinary.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Most readers abhor the wife, but she was definitely my favourite character because of all her viciousness and flaws, and the easiest to write for. I liked the nurse too but found her much more demanding to get right, as if she was flitting between my fingers resisting to be nailed down.
Room 11 is a fantastic suspense novel. Was there anything that happened organically in the story while you were writing? Did it surprise you?
All along I knew how the wife had ended up in a coma and that she would reveal that by then end of the book. But what would the nurse do? I wanted the wife killed … I wanted to pretend that her cynicism could be silenced and her man could have a new start alongside the other woman. But in the end… I just couldn’t. I wonder why…
After an accident leaves a woman in a coma, her husband sits on a hospital chair day-in day-out singing to her. Nobody can pull him away from her as she threads through the dreams that could save her. Meanwhile, a delusional nurse grows her admiration for him into obsessive desire.
‘I am fascinated by the way mari delves so deeply into the personality of the nurse, showing how she gradually comes to believe the man in Room 11 is in love with her, seeing all sort of small indications that may or may not be real,’ A Woman’s Write.
ROOM 11 is a dual narrative by strong, cynical, broken heroines (the nurse and the wife) winding passionately through hope, anger, delusion, obsession, guilt, sacrifice, resignation and eventually forgiveness, to help them re-emerge from their separate tragedies.
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Mari Reiza, author of Room 11, gives readers two women’s accounts of the same events via their own dreamlike states. A comatose woman and her doting husband are tended by a dedicated but overly-involved nurse. The nurse, focused heavily on the needs of the adoring husband, gives her account of the meticulous care he shows his bedridden wife underscored by her own daydreams which reveal an intense yearning to take his wife’s place. In alternating chapters, Reiza allows the reader to hear the wife’s dreams loud and clear via her own tangled memories. Hers are dreams peppered with fantasies based on the events taking place around her.
The style Mari Reiza has chosen to use in writing Room 11 offered me quite a different reading experience. I enjoyed the alternating chapters revealing the two different points of view of both the needy nurse and the comatose wife. About halfway through the book, it became more obvious that Reiza was revealing dreams from the wife that painted a picture of her immediate surroundings and her husband’s desperate efforts to rouse her.
I did find it much easier to follow the nurse’s daydreams than the wife’s fantastical retellings. At times, the wife’s chapters became very difficult to follow. There are many lines that are effectively repeated to make an impact on the reader. Reiza has succeeded in expressing the wife’s distress over her own inability to have children. However, much of the wife’s narrative becomes a series of rambling and repetitive lines.
The author paints a clear picture of the man in Room 11, as the nurse refers to him throughout the book. His love for his wife is heartrendingly obvious. His dedication to her care and, most of all, her dignity in her current condition is indeed enviable. Any person who has been the caretaker for a relative or patient will relate to the exhausting amount of effort the man in Room 11 bestows upon his ailing wife day in and day out.
Throughout the dreams and musings of both women, multiple settings are incorporated into the story. Among them are Ghana and Northern Spain. Though the reader slowly discerns the main setting is in the United Kingdom, both women’s tales reveal troubled pasts beyond its borders. The author has created a vision of a tormented life for both characters. Living in vastly different economic circumstances, the nurse and the wife both expose the anguish of devastating losses. The two women share a common bond they will likely never realize.
As I read, I was both fascinated by and disturbed by the nurse’s infatuation with the man in Room 11. Reiza has created a memorable character with the nurse as she divulges dark, almost sinister, feelings toward her helpless patient. Her increasingly stalker-like behaviors leave the reader both intrigued and uncomfortable. It is a given that the reader’s compassion should be directed to the wife in her unfortunate state, but the nurse is a character much more worthy of pity.
Though the language is beautiful and the story woven by the two women is fascinating, I found their dreams difficult to follow. I feel that too much repetition, especially in the wife’s dream sequences, took away from the book’s overall appeal.
Pages: 128 | ASIN: B06XJ3X7JZ
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Marina Bonnaserra, a young administrative nurse realizes that her life as a SINK lacks any deeper meaning. Prodded on by a series of piercing comments, she considers having a child. Knowing that the only man in her life is non-committal, and against fatherhood, she explores in vitro fertilization. In the very corporate world of IVF, Marina is stimulated to produce eggs, rapidly assigned an anonymous sperm donor, and awaits implantation. She soon discovers that not all of her fertilized eggs can be accounted for, leading her to a desperate quest against corporate greed to locate her own missing “products of conception.” Can her one passion protect her from her one obsession?