HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It’s what we're writing week, and I am being grateful for deadlines, because otherwise how would we ever be finished? When I look back at my work (sometimes), or read it out loud at events (rarely!) there is always some little thing I would change. Sigh. I guess that’s good, always striving to be more evocative, more emotional, more exciting. Shorter.
I’m five thousand words into a new book—more on that soon. And every word feels like a triumph. Not that the words are so great—simply that they exist, where there was once only a blank page! And I keep telling myself that if I keep going, inevitably and inexorably, the new story will emerge. So far, I’ve got a car accident, a murder victim, and a new job for Jane. And that’s only the first three chapters. I can make it better later.
You know, every time I start a book, I have a moment of thinking: this cannot be done! And then, months and months later, there it is. Now we are coming up to the pub date for the fourth Jane Ryland/Jake Brogan thriller, WHAT YOU SEE. I am so excited to say it’s October 20, and why sure, you can pre-order.
WHAT YOU SEE begins with a murder in broad daylight, a stabbing at Curley Park just outside Boston City Hall. (Inside info: This incident is very loosely based on a case my defense attorney husband had! He represented the accused killer. More on that another day…) Anyway, in the book at least: Soon after the crime, a newbie police cadet takes our hero, Detective Jake Brogan, aside, and tells him a bystander might have a lead on the bad guy.
“Down that way—in the alley!” The cadet grabbed Jake’s arm, and Jake followed the kid’s pointing finger toward the narrow curved passage between the bank and the liquor store. “Some guy, hiding in a Dumpster. Down there. Or someone put something in the Dumpster. Something like that.” The cadet gulped for air, trying to get the words out. “A girl—I mean, a woman—told me. Anyway, what if it’s the—”
“Who told you? Where’d she come from?” Jake needed specifics. “Where is she now? This girl-woman? What’d she say?”
“Ah, I don’t know, she just said—what I said. The Dumpster. We were all taking names and addresses, see, they’re still doing that, like you wanted, and she came up to me and—”
The cadet’s black plastic name tag said brad lonnergan. Lonnergan pointed again, jabbing the air. “Down there. What if it’s the guy who—”
“You kidding me? Do you see her? Find her.” This Lonnergan kid was not clear on the law enforcement concept. “Hold her. Do not let her leave. Understand? D!”
Jake signaled DeLuca with one finger. Me. You. That way. Let’s go.
They couldn’t afford to spook the crowd. All he needed, a mob following them into Franklin Alley, hooting like medieval peasants while they dragged some poor jerk from a Dumpster. Jake, checking to make sure D was behind him, snaked behind the spectators, dodging and weaving. Only one or two seemed to notice they were on the move. He and D didn’t look like cops, after all. Just two guys wearing jeans and leather jackets. Walking fast.
Jake glanced over his shoulder again. Most eyes focused on Kat McMahon, the ME now kneeling over the victim. For once, better to keep it that way. Cadets—the ones with brains—were taking names and addresses. Asking if anyone saw anything. Asking spectators with cameras and cell phones to stand by. The whole thing was already verging on out of control. And now this.
But maybe this would solve the whole damn case and they all could go home.
Ahead of them, the alley. Cracked pavement, cobblestones scattered with gravel. Framed on the right by the bank’s brand-new red brick, on the left by the pockmarked brownstone of Jodi’s Liquors and the University Inn. With its twists and turns, only the first ten feet or so of Franklin were visible from the street. Jake knew it was a dead end. If someone was in there, like Lonnergan’s “girl-woman” said, there’d be no way out except toward him and DeLuca. A bad guy who planned where he was going, or was at least familiar with this part of the city, would never have chosen this as an escape route. Unless he was panicking. Or hurt. Or trying to hide, waiting it out.
Or luring them in? Trapping them?
At the curb, Jake stopped, put up a hand, assessing. DeLuca skidded to a halt, almost slamming into Jake’s back. Broad daylight, not like anyone could surprise them. The quiet hubbub of Curley Park softened into background.
One second, two.
Jake felt for his Glock, drew it, felt the sun on his face. A seagull squawked, swooping, headed for the harbor. Lured into a dead-end alley? Windows above. Rooftops. Where was the woman who’d sent them down here? Who was she? Whose side was she on? What if—well, there were too many what-ifs to consider right now.
“You ready?” he said.
“Ready,” DeLuca said.
“On my three.” Jake began, “One.”
“Help!” A voice, from down the alley. “Help me!”
“Three,” Jake said.
HANK: Okay, I like it. It still makes me smile. That‘s a good thing.
And let’s give away an advance reading copy, whaddaya say? I need a name for a female drama teacher at a small college in Boston. I was thinking her first name is Sasha. What’s her last name? (No beginning with J, or M, or D, or R. In fact, can it begin with V? )
Is she a good guy or a bad guy? Too early to tell. But I’ll choose an ARC winner at random for the suggestions…and I’m hoping I can also use a name!
(And who is going to Malice this weekend? Crossing fingers for my Agatha-nominated TRUTH BE TOLD and WRITES OF PASSAGE!)