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What You See (Jane Ryland) by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Cover Artist: Arcangel Images / Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765374950
Date: 20 October 2015 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

During lunchtime, in Boston's Curley Park, someone is stabbed to death in view of many locals and summer tourists. Chaos and confusion reign as the killer flees and visitors snap photos on their digital cameras and smartphones. Itinerant reporter Jane Ryland and detective Jake Brogan are trapped in the melee. The brutish owner of a security company, Calvin Hewlitt, is discovered beating to death a suspect in a nearby alley. While Jake investigates the identities of the victim and suspect, Jane becomes enmeshed in a family crisis involving child abduction. Furthermore, employees of City Hall, which overlooks Curley Park, have witnessed the stabbing on surveillance cameras; they know more than they're willing to tell authorities. Additional lives will be jeopardized and lost, because what you see can get you killed.

Let me say that Hank Phillippi Ryan is a very gifted writer; she possesses a superb imagination and is a master of the English language. Her fourth installment in the Jane Ryland and Jake Brogan Series, What You See, is an intriguing mystery. I was dying to learn the identity of the stabbing victim in Curley Park and why he/she was targeted for death. The mystery unfolds and is resolved in less than 48 hours.

What might have been a taut, fast-paced thriller, however, becomes bogged down with too much unnecessary detail. Ryan is very verbose. Her novel could have been whittled down to a leaner, more manageable 300 pages. Approximately eighty pages are devoted to the park's stabbing incident, which occurs at the beginning. It is described from numerous points of view. On the other hand, the mystery's denouement (when numerous questions are finally answered) is wrapped up in a few pages. I felt the ending was slightly rushed.

Jane and Jake are still struggling with their career choices. It is not ethical for reporters and officers to date. They maintain a nerve-wracking clandestine relationship. Jane has quit working as a reporter for the Boston Register but may be working as a roving reporter on television. Unfortunately, the crisis with her soon-to-be extended family is jeopardizing her chances at being offered a full-time position with the Channel 2 News. Jane's sister, Melissa, will soon be marrying Daniel Fasullo. Daniel and his ex-wife, Robyn Wilhoite, have a nine-year-old daughter, Gracie. Gracie may have been abducted by Robyn's current husband, Lewis Wilhoite. Jane eventually learns she will be serving as an important mediator in safely returning Gracie to her parents.

Another highly dysfunctional family that plays a prominent role in What You See is the wealthy Siskel family. They are mourning the loss of the oldest daughter, Lanna, who was found dead in Steading Woods behind their home. Police ruled it an accident, but the Siskels begin to believe it was murder. At City Hall, Catherine Siskel is the chief of staff for Mayor Elihu Holbrooke. Catherine's manic depressed teenage daughter, Tenley, also works at City Hall; she monitors the surveillance cameras, one of which films the stabbing incident at Curley Park in front of her building. During lunch, Tenley meets and befriends a strange girl, Brileen Finnerty. Brileen may be connected to both Lanna's death and the stabbing victim in Curley Park.

What you see is not always what you get. Appearances can be very deceiving. Despite all the eyewitnesses to the stabbing, people are confused as to what they actually saw. Families and relationships that appear beautiful and perfect on the outside are actually ugly and broken. Through their respective jobs, Jane and Jack uncover diabolical, treacherous conspiracies involving crooked government employees, corrupt police officers, and deceitful family members.

Unfortunately, at least for me, What You See lacks the high body count that I relish in my mysteries. (It could have been higher.) In many situations, I thought Jane overreacted and assumed the worst; I kept negatively thinking of her as a drama queen.

Nevertheless, despite having too much padding, What You See is a romantic mystery that is highly intriguing. It has plenty of startling revelations, strange twists, and a happy ending that I found very pleasing. I look forward to the next installment in this unique series.

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