Ellie, an investigative television reporter, is working on a big story about a Boston pharmaceutical company's corruption while hiding an undercover gig as one of the company's sales reps. When her neighbor, Meg, is assigned to help with the investigation, Ellie's work becomes complicated. And two identical car crashes lead Ellie to suspect foul play.
Ryan’s tight-twist plot careens forward, ramping up suspense every couple of pages and putting everyone in danger. When it looks like Meg intends to steal Ellie’s news job as well, the tension grows almost unbearable ... For a while, this thriller switches characters in flashes like a Shakespearean drama, storms and treachery rattling off stage. Then, as the dangers move to center action, the characters spin ... Ryan provides an extra tang of satisfaction as all the most potent characters in The First to Lie are tough, savvy, scientifically sharp women with skills that could slide effectively into the original James Bond series.
As Ellie’s investigation reaches a climax, the true identities and motives of the characters are revealed in a series of improbable twists, some of which readers nevertheless are likely to see coming. In the closing chapters, the tale teeters on the preposterous, but Ryan, a veteran thriller writer with five Agatha Awards to her credit, holds things together most of the way with her fine prose, vivid characterizations, and an uncanny ability to keep all the balls in the air. A working investigative reporter herself, Ryan skillfully explores the consequences of deception and the dangers inherent in violating journalistic ethics. In the end, however, readers are likely to find the last few twists preposterous.
Ryan nimbly alternates perspectives and timelines throughout the narrative ... there’s a dizzying game of cat and mouse afoot in which neither the cat nor the mouse is clearly defined. This limbo state is nicely mirrored by the author’s rendering of Boston in March, when a pervasive sense of volatility reigns. The First to Lie is another standout for Hank Phillippi Ryan, whose impressive pedigree lends itself brilliantly to authentic, nuanced storytelling. While big pharma provides the jumping-off point, this is, at its core, an intimate tale of deception and duplicity: the lies we tell ourselves and others—and what we’re willing to do, and who we’re willing to become, to reveal the ultimate truth. Be forewarned: Do not pick up this book if you have imminent plans to do anything but read.