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Drive Time (Charlotte McNally Series #4)

Drive Time (Charlotte McNally Series #4)

4.0 5
by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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Drive Time: the Agatha and Anthony nominee from bestselling author Hank Phillippi Ryan, now back in print!

Investigative reporter Charlotte McNally is an expert at keeping things confidential, but suddenly everyone has a secret--and it turns out it is possible to know too much.

Her latest scoop--an expose of a counterfeit car scam, complete with


Drive Time: the Agatha and Anthony nominee from bestselling author Hank Phillippi Ryan, now back in print!

Investigative reporter Charlotte McNally is an expert at keeping things confidential, but suddenly everyone has a secret--and it turns out it is possible to know too much.

Her latest scoop--an expose of a counterfeit car scam, complete with stakeouts, high-speed chases and hidden-camera footage--is ratings gold. But soon that leads her to a brand-new and diabolical scheme. Charlie's personal and professional lives are on a collision course, too. Her fiance is privy to information about threats at an elite private school that have turned deadly.

Charlie had never counted on happy endings. But now, just as she's finally starting to believe in second changes, she realizes revenge, extortion and murder may leave her alone again--or even dead...

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Buckle up and prepare for a wild ride as Charlie McNally and Boston's Channel 3 News investigate a nefarious car theft/forgery operation and race to get their story on the air before their lives are endangered. In the meantime, Charlie becomes consumed with secret sleuthing as blackmail and suspicious deaths threaten the private, prestigious Bexter Academy where her fiancé teaches. Amid late-night stakeouts and dangerous car chases, Charlie finds time for romance, wedding planning, and bonding with her future stepdaughter. In her fourth series entry (after Prime Time, Face Time, and Air Time), Ryan once again channels her Emmy-winning investigative reporting expertise to craft a realistic and compelling mystery, full of hairpin turns and dangerous intersections at breakneck speed. VERDICT Placing Ryan in the same league as Lisa Scottoline and Julie Kramer, her latest book catapults the reader into the fast lane and doesn't relent until the story careens to a stop. New readers will speed to get her earlier books, and diehard fans will hope for another installment.—Mary Todd Chesnut, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

Product Details

Publication date:
Charlotte McNally Series , #4
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.72(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

I can't wait to tell our secret. And I'll get to do it if we're not all killed first.

We're ten minutes away from Channel 3 when suddenly the Boston skyline disappears. Murky slush splatters across our windshield, kicked up from the tires of the rattletrap big rig that just swerved in front of us on the snow-slick highway. Eighteen wheels of obstacle, stubbornly obeying the Massachusetts Turnpike speed limit.

I brace myself once again. During this afternoon's teeth-clenching, bone-rattling, knuckle-whitening drive, I've learned how J.T. feels about speed limits.

"Fifty-five is for cowards!" he mutters. My new photographer powers our unmarked car into the passing lane, sloshing what's left of my coffee and almost throwing me across the backseat. Franklin, seemingly oblivious to our icy peril, is in the front seat clicking on his newest phone gizmo. As usual these days, my producer's deep into texting.

"Thanks, I'm fine back here," I call out, blotting the milky spill from my just dry-cleaned black coat. I don't even attempt to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. J.T. Shaw may be a hotshot when it comes to news video, but he apparently learned his driving skills chasing headlines in the network's Middle East Bureau. Now, even though he's back stateside shooting my investigative stories, he still thinks he's driving in Beirut. Where they don't have ice. Or speed limits.

Eight minutes away from Channel 3. Eight minutes away from the rest of my life. I hope I make it.

I look at the still-unfamiliar emerald-cut diamond on my third finger, left hand. Even in the fading winter light, it glistens, catching the January sunset, fire in the center. I'm strapped into the backseat of a deathtrap news car, but memories still spark the beginnings of a smile. Josh handing me the heart-stoppingly iconic robin's-egg-blue box. The creak of the tiny hinges as I opened it. The twinkle, the love, the passion in his hazel eyes as Josh slipped the glittering surprise onto my finger. Charlotte McNally, soon-to-be married lady. The family of investigative reporter Charlotte Ann McNally, age forty-seven, of Boston, announces her engagement to BexterAcademy professor Joshua Ives Gelston, fifty-two, ofBrookline…

"Charlotte! Get the license number!"

Snapped out of my bliss by the squeal of brakes, I look up to see Franklin twisted over the front seat, pointing out the back window. And then I hear a skid. Metal on metal. A horn blaring. Then another one. Then silence.

"It looks like a—blue? Black? What kind of car?" Franklin's squinting through his newest pair of eyeglasses, these rimless, almost invisible. He's jabbing a finger toward the highway behind us. We're going at least seventy now, speeding away from whatever he's looking at. "Over there, across the Pike. Right lane."

I follow his finger, unsnapping my seat belt and yanking my coat so I can face backward on the seat, knees tucked under me. My turn to squint. "The guy in the—? I think it's blue. Some sort of sports car? Going too fast— he's crazy. All I can see is taillights. What happened?"

Then I see what's on the side of the road. The puzzle pieces snap together. And the big picture means J.T.'s Indiana Jones driving ability may come in handy. Problem is, we're going in the wrong direction.

"J.T.! Check it out in your rearview." Using one finger, I poke him in the shoulder. "Behind us. Other side of the Pike. Looks like a hit-and-run. A car ran into the guardrail. Any way to get us there? Like, right now?"

I grab the leather strap above my seat, preparing for the inevitable g-force. Traffic accident? Definitely. News story? Maybe. But I'm a reporter and it's my responsibility to find out.

Keeping my eyes on the accident scene, I use my free hand to grope through my bottomless black leather tote bag for my phone. I know it's in there somewhere, but I can't take my eyes off the crash to look for it. Why are we still speeding away?

"J.T.? Listen, we've got to turn around somehow. Come on, just do it! Franko, you call 911, okay? My phone is—"

"Hang on!"

With a blare of the horn, J.T. swerves us across two lanes, skidding briefly in the slush and splattering ice pellets across our windows. I'm thrown across the seat again, grabbing to get my seat belt back on before I'm the next casualty. So much for getting to the station on time. And this was my idea.

J.T. checks his rearview, his expression hidden behind his oversize sunglasses, then jounces us across an emergency lane in a who-cares-it's-illegal U-turn. With a two-handed twist of the steering wheel, he bangs the gas to speed us in the opposite direction.

"We're approaching mile marker 121," Franklin is saying into his phone. He's braced for the ride, one hand clamped on the dashboard, and his voice is terse. "Mass Pike. Westbound. Car in the ditch."

We're almost there. Off the road, skewed and tilted at an angle that telegraphs disaster, there's a set of taillights that's not moving. The trunk of the blocky sedan is open. I can't see the front of the car. And I can't see anyone getting out.

"Tell them the guy who caused it left the scene," I instruct. My fingers touch my own phone. "Tell them— blue or black. Sports car. Headed west. Fast. And no movement at the crash site. And no fire. Yet. I'll call the assignment desk. Let them know we're on the scene." And we'll be late getting back, I don't say.

Josh should be used to it by this time. And he— generally—understands a reporter can't control breaking news. Thing is, being late today has some extra baggage. In two hours we're supposed to be breaking our own news: telling Penny she's getting a new stepmother. Me.

The nine-year-old was at Walt Disney World with her mother and stepfather when Josh and I got engaged. This week, still on school vacation, Penny's back with Josh. Now it seems like our news, Reality World, will have to stay secret a bit longer. My mother knows, of course. And Franklin. He and I have no secrets. Working as a team, sharing an office, there's no way.

Franklin and I usually handle the blockbuster stories, long-term investigations, Emmy caliber. Two months ago, we pulled off a showstopper, revealing international counterfeiting and FBI corruption. But after twenty-plus years in the biz, I know local news demands local news. And a hit-and-run tragedy could lead the show. I punch 33 on my cell phone's speed dial.

Clamping the phone to my ear with my shoulder, I rip off my black suede heels and yank on the flat snow boots I always carry this time of year in a red nylon Channel 3 pouch. Yes, I'm a pack mule. But I can't be worrying about slush on suede. Or cold feet.

Notebook. Pencil. And finally, the assignment desk picks up.

"Channel 3 News…"

"Hold some time on the six," I interrupt. "It's Charlie McNally. Got a pen? Tell the producer. Spot news on the Mass Pike. Hit-and-run. Car in a ditch. Casualties unknown. Franklin Parrish is with me. J.T.'s shooting. More to come. Got it?" I flip the phone closed in the middle of "Okay" and open the car door.

We're there.

A blast of January hits me, and I scramble to keep my balance in the frozen slush of the rutted roadside. A quick check of my trademark red lipstick in the car's side mirror also reminds me my hair's brownish roots are invading their painstakingly blonded camouflage. Flipping open my spiral notebook and edging across the breakdown lane, I look over my shoulder to make sure J.T. has his camera out and rolling.

"Right behind you, Charlie," J.T. says. He slams the trunk closed with one hand, and aims the camera at a pile of still-white snow, hitting the white-balance button to make sure our video is set to the right color. His leather gloves have the fingers cut off, allowing him to make the tiniest adjustments in video and sound.

"You got your external audio potted up?" Franklin asks.

I can't believe the boys are bickering again. J.T, battered leather jacket and broken-in jeans, foreign-correspondent cool and with a network résumé, is my age, but he's still the new guy at Channel 3. Franklin, pressed and preppy in Burberry camel hair, is ten years J.T.'s junior, but still holds station seniority. Picking my way toward the car, I turn to watch, half amused, half annoyed, as they continue their battle for turf. Can't we all just get along? Men.

J.T, aviator sunglasses now perched in his sandy hair, throws Franko an are-you-kidding look, but gives the camera's built-in microphone a tap just the same. He checks to make sure the needle on the audio meter is moving. "Rolling with sound, Charlie," he announces.

Franklin waves him off. "Just doing my job, pal."

"Me too, brotha," J.T. says.

Franklin hates when a white person calls him "brother." And J.T. knows it.

"Guys?" I interrupt the escalation of World War III. "The car? Someone's inside?"

We all head in the direction of the still-silent accident scene. All I can hear are our footsteps and the hissing splatter of cars streaking by on the crowded highway. Then I see the whole picture. The mangled car, its front end tangled in a now-twisted metal guardrail, is perched precariously over a shallow embankment. The hood of the dark red sedan is tented, crumpled, a discarded tin can. Tires in shreds. Something hot is hissing onto the snow beneath the chassis. I know the longer nothing moves, the more likely the news inside is bad. "Come on," I say softly. "Get out of the car."

And then, a quiet sound. Like a—cry. A baby. Crying.

"Guys?" I stop. Listening. But all is silent again. "Did you hear that?"

And then, the car's front door creaks open. Driver's side. Slowly. The car shifts, briefly, then settles back. No one gets out.

I flash a look at J.T.

J.T. holds up a reassuring hand, his eye pressed to the viewfinder. "Rolling," he mouths.

Franklin points to me, then J.T, then to the car. He raises one eyebrow. We don't want to say anything out loud—it'll be recorded on the tape.

The crying starts again. Getting louder. Where's the ambulance? And then I see what J.T. is capturing on camera.

A man hauls himself, hand over hand, out of the front seat. He leans against the open door, parka to window, and presses one gloved hand to his bleeding forehead. He's thirtyish, suburban. His pale blue puffy jacket, striped muffler and jeans are spattered with blood. "Gabe," he says. "Sophie."

He gestures toward the car, then crumples onto the front seat, planting his salt-stained Timberland boots in the snow. Red drops plunk onto the white, then one splats onto his tanboot. "I'm okay," he insists, waving a hand. "Justdizzy. Head on the steering wheel. Please. Gabe and Sophie."

"Sir?" Franklin says, stepping closer. "We called 911 and…"

I'm already yanking open the passenger-side rear door. A boy, five years old maybe, in chunky mittens and red parka, is still in his booster seat, seat belt on. His cheeks are wet. His eyes are wide. The crying is coming from beside him. There, an unhappy toddler in a pink hat, squirming in her flowered sweater and matching snow pants, is strapped into a padded baby seat.

"Are you the doctor?" the boy asks me. "Daddy said you would come."

"Hi, Gabe. I'm Charlie," I say. Am I supposed to move him? I glance at the driver's seat. In a newish car like this, I would have expected air bags in the front. "Everything is going to be all right, sweetheart. The doctor will be here in one second to get you out. Is that your sister? Do you hurt anywhere?"

"I was in a crash, so I cried a little," Gabe says. He's earnest, his brown eyes trusting. "But I'm a big boy. And I always wear my seat belt. So I don't hurt. Is my daddy hurt? Sophie is crying. She always cries. She's only one years old."

"Your dad is fine, that's a good boy," I reassure him. Little Sophie begins to wail full blast. Her blanket is on the floor of the car. I can't leave her there. Where is the ambulance? What makes a car blow up?

"Gabe? If I unhook your seat belt, can you get out? I'm going to get your sister, and then we'll all walk away from the car. Can you do that?"

If I move the kids, am I going to make this worse? Neither seems really hurt. And the ambulance must be on the way. And except maybe for the hit-and-run element, this is not much of a story. Luckily for all involved. But we have to wait for the EMTs, at least. And maybe the cops, too, since, technically, we're witnesses.

"I want out." Gabe, his face suddenly racked with uncertainty, elongates the final word into a mournful plea.

I reach over, unclick four pink webbed straps from around the now-quieting Sophie and ease her out of the baby seat, grabbing the yellow chenille blanket from the floor and wrapping it around her as I back out the door. Sophie sniffles, once, then I feel her little body burrow into my shoulder. On the other side of the car, her father is standing again. Where's the ambulance?

"The kids are fine," I call to him across the car. "We'll come to you."

The sky is steel and ice, promising another bitter night. I tuck the blanket closer around Sophie, and wiggle my fingers toward Gabe. "Take my hand, honey. Can you get down?"

Gabe slides off the seat and grabs my hand. His lower lip gives the beginnings of a quiver. "I want to see my daddy," he says, looking at me.

"Absolutely," I say. "And we can tell him how brave you are."

This has got to be the strangest interview I've ever done. The EMTs finally arrived, pleading "wicked traffic" and "buncha jerk" drivers. They checked the kids, plastered Declan Ross's forehead with a gauze-and-tape bandage, pronounced everyone fine and took off. Now Sophie's nestled peacefully over my shoulder, her little breath sounds snuffling into my ear. Franklin and Gabe, holding hands, are watching as I use my non-Sophie hand to hold the Channel 3 microphone, its chunky logo red, white and blue against the gray slush. I know we probably won't use my interview with Declan Ross, or even the video J.T. shot of the victims' car—Franklin's already informed the assignment desk it's too minor to make air.

And I'm yearning to leave, meet up with Josh, share our celebratory dinner. Take a step closer to becoming Penny's mom. But we're here, and my years of experience dictate it's easier to erase an interview than regret not doing it. Better to be safe than scooped. Your job could depend on it.

"So just to be clear," I say, bringing the microphone back in my direction, "this car is rented because yours is in the shop?" I flip the mic back to Ross.

Meet the Author

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the investigative reporter for Boston's NBC affiliate and has won thirty-three Emmys and thirteen Edward R. Murrow awards for her ground-breaking journalism. Author of the Jane Ryland series, Ryan has also won multiple awards for her bestselling crime fiction (The Other Woman, The Wrong Girl, Truth Be Told), including five Agatha Awards, the Anthony, Daphne, Macavity, and the Mary Higgins Clark Awards. Ryan is a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and past president of national Sisters in Crime.

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Drive Time (Charlotte McNally Series #4) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Charlie McNally is back and ready to swing into action! The plot is familiar - the discovery of a criminal connection that threatens the life and limbs of Charlie and her fellow reporter and camera man. Rather than back away from this conflict, the discovery of an outrageous scheme followed by discovery and revenge. Only there's an added mystery in this latest Charlotte McNally novel - blackmail and death occurring at her fiance's school, Bexter Academy, and Josh just might know too much about the answer to this elusive, deadly mystery begun with threatening anonymous phone calls! Charlie learns some disconcerting news about Franklin by accident. Instead of ignoring Josh as in previous novel, she's been so preoccupied with him and her relationship with his daughter, Penny, that she unwittingly ignores Franklin, her former tell-all sidekick. But instead of backbiting and nastiness, they decide to make this investigation and possible Emmy-winning story one to top all the previous adventurous stories. Without spoiling the plot line, there are some very snazzy-looking cars and a very clever scheme to sell more of the same illegally a la carjacking and the use of VIN cloning. This part of the story, replete with dangerous conversations and road chases, is very cleverly juxtaposed with the mystery set in a quaint, private New England school with very prim and proper faculty members reminiscent of the 19th and 20th century, except for the very contemporary use of adoption for a fraudulent fund-raising campaign. Drive Time is this reviewer's favorite novel in the Charlotte McNally series, action-packed, tense, clever, perceptive and passionate! You have outdone yourself with this latest novel, Ms. Ryan! Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on December 15, 2009
dhaupt More than 1 year ago
Charlie McNally, Investigative Reporter extraordinaire is busy getting her story for the February Sweeps, and what a story it is. And while stumbling into the uncharted waters of her new roll as step-mom to be and wife to hunky private school professor Josh, she discovers something's not right within the haloed halls of Bexter Academy. Two mysteries to solve, both equally sinister, both resulting in murder and mayhem. Will Charlie save the day or will it be "Sorry Charlie". Hank's story line/plot is as usual right off the front pages of any local newspaper, or the leading story on any network news station. And as always a who-done-it worthy of Holmes or Miss Marple. She knows her stuff and it shows with her smooth dialogue and edgy context. Her characters are some of the most personable and memorable you'll ever read and not only her heroine Charlie and main squeeze fiancé Josh, but all the incredible people that co-star and even those just making appearances in the story. Her romance is sweet and sensual but definitely the main focus is on solving the mystery Drive Time is the 4th installment of the Charlotte McNally series by Hank Phillipi Ryan and it's the best by far so far. It reads well as a stand-a-lone but to get the whole picture my suggestion would be to read the whole series. Hank has a hit on her hands with Drive Time, it hits all the marks and is an incredible who-done-it. So don't walk, run to your nearest bookseller and pick up a copy of this great read.
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
I love this series! Charlotte McNalley is an investigative reporter, in her late 40's, newly engaged and embarking on step-momhood too. With all that on her plate, the big story for February sweeps turns out to be a timely automobile expose that moves from being just about recalled cars not being fixed to cloned cars. Charlie is delightfully real, she takes her relationship with young Penny very seriously, creating a bit of a rift with Franklin at work when Josh's Bexford school has secrets of its own to discover.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Boston's Channel 3 investigative reporter forty-seven years old Charlotte "Charlie" McNally is looking into a nasty car theft-auto forgery ring. The story smells like an "Emmy" if she and the crew live long enough for air time. At the same time she has an offer to go to New York for the big time.--------------- Charlie is concerned for her fifty-two years old fiancé, Josh Gelston, a teacher at the Bexter Academy, and his nine year old daughter, Penny a student there. Unable to resist, the intrepid reporter makes inquiries that lead her to realize murders have occurred and so has blackmailing. She remains ignorant to the fact the killer is watching her progress with plans to get rid of a nosy investigative TV news reporter.-------------- The latest "Time" after time investigative thriller (see Prime Time, Face Time, and Air Time) is another great entry in a strong series. Filled with non-stop action starting when Charlie is eight minutes away from starting the rest of her life except she and photographer J.T. stop on the highway to investigate an incident setting the tone once again for a fabulous tale. This time the prime story line has Charlie's professional life crash into her personal life as Hank Phillippi Ryan provides a superb thriller.------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was bored with this book and never finished it. Very hum- drum