Friday, July 15, 2016

Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Seasoned investigative reporter Charlotte McNally knows that in the cutthroat world of television journalism every story could be your last.  There's always someone younger and prettier to take your place, always a story more sensational to drive ratings through the roof. 

When Brad Foreman's widow demands to know why Charlie never answered his e-mail, Charlie is confused.  She never received his message.  What did Brad, an accountant at a pharmaceutical company, want to tell her?  As she searches through her computer, she finds an innocent-looking e-mail in her junk mail folder that may turn out to be the biggest story of her career.

Is the encoded e-mail - and the ones that follow - linked to Brad's "accidental" death?  Charlie's investigation leads her to Brad's friend professor Josh Gelston, who is charming and exceedingly helpful - perhaps suspiciously so.

Charlie must decide is she can trust Josh.  Before a multimillion-dollar fraud ring with murder in its arsenal makes her the next lead story. 

Hank Phillippi Ryan is one of those authors that I've seen around for quite a few years, but have never really taken the time to read before.  I've wanted to, cross my heart and hope to die, but other books kept distracting me.  I'm sure that's a situation any voracious reader has found themselves in at least once.  There are just too many books, and there will never be enough time to read all the ones you want.  Luckily for me, the entire Charlotte McNally series is being republished, and when I was contacted by the publicist to see if I wanted to review the first book in the series, Prime Time, I jumped at the chance.

For my long time followers, you already know that I love mysteries, but have a strong preference for Golden Age mysteries.  Oddly, I don't think I really understood that preference until I read Prime Time.  Please don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and had a lot of fun with Charlie.  It has a compelling mystery for her to solve, and seeing the character interaction was a joy to read, and therein lies my moral quandry.

I guess, when it comes down to it, I'm a plot over character kind of guy, at least when it comes to mysteries. And that's what I love about Golden Age authors, their plots were convoluted and complicated, taking twist after twist, but somehow making it all work in the end.  Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Erle Stanley Gardner, John Dickson Carr, Patrick Quentin, Patricia Wentworth, and many others, were geniuses at writing compelling mysteries.  Of course they had great characters to go with it, but the core of their books were the mysteries themselves.  They weren't character studies, sacrificing plot details in order to focus on character development, and that's what I feel most modern mysteries do.

I'm not saying there is there is anything wrong with that, nor am I saying that all modern day mystery authors make that trade off, but I do think most do.  I've read books by more than one "modern" mystery author, and they do write well developed characters.  Their main protagonists, especially the ones who go to star in their own series, do show great evolution over the course of a book(s).  And please don't misunderstand me, I love well developed characters, but it seems, at least in the mystery/thriller/suspense genre, that some of that character growth, takes the place of the twisted plot developments I love so much. And, sorry for repeating myself with this next line, please don't misunderstand me and think that Prime Time has a weak plot, it doesn't, I just wanted more of it.  It needed to be beefed up a bit in order for me to really sink my teeth into it.

It all boils down to preference, and I'm pretty sure my preference will not change.  I'm still more apt to pick up a book by Agatha Christie than I am anything written in the last few decades, and that's okay.  I'm still going to read the remaining books in this series, because I really do like Charlie, but it won't be a mad dash or a binge read like I did with Mary Roberts Rinehart a few years ago.


bermudaonion said...

I'm with you when it comes to mysteries - the plot comes first. It still sounds like this book is worth reading.

Katherine P said...

Interesting point about why you prefer classic mysteries and I must say that I'm the same way though I hadn't really thought about it like that. I definitely prefer plot over character when it comes to mystery and one thing that will lose me quick in a mystery is if there is too much focus on the detective's personal demons. I like a dark and gritty mystery from time to time but I don't want to know in detail about the demons the characters are facing. This doe sound good and like you Ryan is an author I've been wanting to read. This sounds like a good one to pick up but I don't think it's going to be replacing Agatha Christie anytime soon.

TracyK said...

I mostly have the same preference, Ryan. Older mysteries are more about the investigation, and newer mysteries rely too much on technology for my taste. I will read newer mysteries and sometimes find writers who I really enjoy, but percentage wise, I mostly go for Golden Age or even mysteries written in the 70s and 80s.