Face Time (Charlotte McNally Series #2)

Face Time (Charlotte McNally Series #2)

by Hank Phillippi Ryan


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Face Time (Charlotte McNally Series #2) by Hank Phillippi Ryan

It's the scoop of a journalist's dreams!

New evidence in an old murder case could set a convicted woman free. Who better to crack the story than Boston's own version of Brenda Starr? Unfortunately, the prime source won't talk, the attorney general is trying to block the investigation, and the more Charlotte snoops around, the more people turn up dead!

An extended visit from her persnickety mother isn't helping. And Josh, the incredibly sexy new love of her life, may be the picture of perfection, but that includes a close-up of a prickly preteen who's not keen on sharing her daddy with Charlotte.

What's a star reporter to do? If anyone can pull it together it's Charlotte, but she'd better hurry, because someone wants her nose out of their news— for good.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765384782
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 04/12/2016
Series: Charlotte McNally Series , #2
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 639,153
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston's NBC affiliate. She has won 33 EMMYs, 13 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her groundbreaking journalism. A bestselling author of seven mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: five Agathas, the Anthony, Daphne, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a "master at crafting suspenseful mysteries" and "a superb and gifted storyteller." Her 2013 novel, THE WRONG GIRL, won both the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and the Daphne Award for Mainstream Mystery/Suspense, and is a seven-week Boston Globe bestseller. TRUTH BE TOLD was the Agatha Award winner for Best Contemporary Novel, an Anthony Award nominee for Best Novel, and a Library Journal BEST BOOK OF 2014, with starred reviews from Booklist and from Library Journal. She also won a second Agatha Award in 2015 for Best Nonfiction, as editor of WRITES OF PASSAGE, an anthology of essays by mystery authors. Ryan's follow up to TRUTH BE TOLD is WHAT YOU SEE, which debuted in Fall 2015. She's a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime.

Read an Excerpt

Face Time

By Hank Phillippi Ryan

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2009 Hank Phillippi Ryan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-8479-9


It's statistically impossible that my mother is always right. So why doesn't she seem to know it?

Besides, it's demonstrably true that I'm not always wrong. I have twenty-one Emmys for investigative reporting — won number twenty-one after I was stalked by murderous thugs, threatened by insider-trading CEOs and held at gunpoint by a money-hungry sociopath who I proved was mastermind of a nationwide insider-trading scandal. Every one of them is in prison now. So I must have been right about a lot of things.

But at this moment, struggling for balance on a cushily upholstered chair at Mom's bedside in New England's most exclusive cosmetic surgery center, somehow I no longer feel like the toast of Boston television. I feel more like toast. Once again, I'm a gawky, awkward, nearsighted adolescent, squirming under the assessing eye of Lorraine Carpenter McNally. Two months from now, provided her face heals in time for the wedding, she'll be Lorraine Carpenter McNally Margolis.

"Charlotte," Mother says. "Stop frowning. You're making lines."

Millions of viewers know me as Charlie McNally. I'm not Charlie to my mother, though. As she's repeatedly told me, my news director, my producer Franklin Parrish, my ex-husband Sweet Baby James, admirers who hail me on the street, and certainly Josh Gelston when she meets him: "Nicknames are for stuffed animals and men who have to play sports." After that pronouncement, she always adds: "If I'd wanted a child named Charlie, I would have had a boy and named him that."

Mom and I do better by long distance. Most of our conversations begin with me telling her about something I've done. Then she tells me what I should have done. Then I ask why nothing I do is ever good enough. Then she insists she's not "criticizing," she's "observing." As long as she stays in her skyscraping lake-view condo in Chicago, we do a good job pretending we're a close-knit pair.

But here she is in my hometown, swaddled in a frothy peach hospital gown, surrounded by crystal vases of fragrant June peonies, reclining against down pillows. She insists that I shouldn't come visit her every day, saying she's sure I have better things to do. Patients "of a certain age" who have "extensive surgery" stay here through recovery, minimum fourteen days. So this is going to be an interesting couple of weeks. And by interesting I mean impossible.

At least Mom doesn't look as bad as I expected for a few hours after surgery. No bruises yet, no puffy eyes. She's got bags of what look like frozen peas Ace bandaged to each side of her face to keep down the swelling, and I can still see the little needle marks where her precious Dr. Garth injected Restylane to erase the lines in her forehead.

"All the pretty girls are doing it," she says. She would have given me her trademark raised eyebrow for emphasis, I'm sure, if she could move her eyebrows. "And if you don't make an appointment with the plastic surgeon at your age ..." Her voice trails off, apparently rendered speechless by my continuing refusal to face reality. She settles into her plump nest of pillows, adjusts her peas and pushes harder. "Charlotte, you know I'm right, and ..."

Keeping my face appropriately attentive, I begin a mental list of all the things I should be doing at nine-thirty on a Monday night instead of babysitting with my mother. Thinking about a blockbuster story for the July ratings. Calling Franklin to see if he's come up with another Emmy winner. Making sure I have a bathing suit that won't freak out my darling Josh, who has only known me since last October and has not yet encountered my forty-six-year-old self in anything but sleek reporter suits or jeans and chunky sweaters or strategically lacy lingerie. Under dim lights.

"And local TV is so — local...." Lorraine is reprising one of her favorite themes. Why is it, she wonders, that I've never wanted to move to New York and hit the networks? Or at least move home to Chicago, where she could set me up with a handpicked tycoon husband who would convince me to abandon my television career and become a tycoon wife? For the past twenty years I've told her I'm fulfilled by my career and am comfortable being single again. Mother makes it clear I'm wrong about this.

I look dutifully contemplative, nod a couple of times and continue my mental should-be-doing list. Feed Botox, who's probably already ripped the mail to shreds and tipped over her litter box to prove who's boss. E-mail best friend Maysie, who's at Fenway Park covering the Red Sox, and see what I'm supposed to bring to her annual Fourth of July cookout. Call Nora and make sure my younger sister will take her turn at mom-sitting when Mother finally goes home. Dig up a book about adolescent girls and see how experts suggest I deal with Josh's daughter Penny.

Penny. Right.

I've been to war zones, chased politicians through parking lots, wired myself with hidden cameras, even battled through the annual bridal gown extravaganza in Filene's Basement, but spending my summer vacation days with a surly eight-year-old and her blazingly attractive father? This may be my toughest assignment ever. Not counting the bathing suit.

"Look in the mirror," Mother urges. She starts to point, but then, after a quick scan, apparently realizes the flatteringly lit pink walls of her posh little room — which looks more like plush grand hotel than sterile hospital — don't have any mirrors.

She forges ahead, undaunted by reality. "Well, find a mirror, and look in it," she says. "Charlotte, this isn't a criticism, it's an observation. I'm your mother. If I don't tell you, who will? Your neck is, well, worrisome, and you'll instantly see how your cheeks are drooping."

Happily for our relationship, there's a soft knock on the door. As it opens, Mother's expression softens from imperious to flirtatious. Talk about worrisome. Still, I've got to give her credit for believing she's alluring in that frozen pea and Ace bandage getup. Wisps of her newly reblonded hair escape in a way she'd never allow if there were mirrors, but she's still got the McNally brown eyes and Gramma Nell's good posture. If it's true we become our mothers, I guess I'm not going to be so bad at sixty-eight. Plus, the nursing staff at the New England Center for Cosmetic Surgery is certainly used to women in the awkward stages of transformation.

"Miz McNally?" A romance novel cover-model wannabe in a white oxford button-down and even whiter pants consults the chart clamped to the foot of Mom's bed. His smile is snowier still. "I'm Nurse Justin. How are we feeling?" He clicks some switches on a bedside contraption, checking the heart and respiration monitors the center requires for every patient. Mom coos at him as he muscles a rolling bed table across her lap, pretending she doesn't want to take her latest round of pills because the painkillers make her "silly."

Nurse Justin is just one of the pill-dispensing glamour boys I've seen in the center's modishly fashionable nursing whites. Some are older and gray -templed, some younger with panache-y little ponytails, but they all look like they've just come from shooting the latest Ralph Lauren catalog, and only do this nursing thing in their spare time. I don't know how the center gets away with this obviously discriminatory hiring practice. Plus, who'd want a hunky guy seeing you as a before? Mother, apparently, is all for it.

I tune back in to her chitchat. It's about me.

"On Channel 3," I hear Mother explaining. "Charlotte, dear," she says. "I hope you're going to be on the news tonight. We'd love to watch you."

Not a chance, of course. It's now almost ten o'clock, and the news goes on the air at eleven. But Mother has never understood how television works.

"Nope," I say, smiling as if this isn't a ridiculous question. And, I grudgingly realize, she's just being a proud mom, which is actually very sweet. "I do long-term investigative stories," I explain to the nurse, just an amiable daughter joining the conversation. "I'm only on the air when we've uncovered something big. So, nothing tonight." I shrug. "Sorry."

Nurse Justin's face suddenly changes to a scowl, which is baffling until I see he's pointing at my tote bag. Which is ringing. "No cell phones allowed in guests' rooms," he says, still scowling. "Strict rules. We're all about patient privacy. And quiet. Cell phones are allowed only in the outer lobby."

I cringe. "Forgot to turn it off when I left the station," I say, which is true. I whap it to Off without even checking the number, figuring Justin will forgive me my first transgression, and whoever is calling will call back. His face begins to soften — and then my purse starts beeping.

I dive for the beeper they still make me carry, knowing full well I forgot to turn that off, too. I push the kill button, but the illuminated green letters that pop up are inescapable. CALL DESK, it demands. RIGHT NOW. And if that weren't attention-getting enough, a second screen flashes up at me. NEED U LIVE FOR ELEVEN PM NEWS.

Mom was right again.


"Who? What? When? Why me?" I leap from the cab, phone clamped to my ear. Roger Zelinsky, managing editor of the eleven-o'clock news, is giving me the lowdown in bullet points: attorney general Oscar Ortega. Announcing for governor. Lead story. Every other reporter out on assignment.

"You're going on the air live," Roger says. "Soon as Oz makes his move."

Oscar Ortega is often called "the Great and Powerful Oz," and word is he likes the nickname. The state's first Hispanic attorney general, he's a take-no -prisoners politician with a big-bucks machine behind him. If he's running for governor, he'll be tough to beat.

The parking lot outside Ortega's redbrick Beacon Hill office is full of scurrying TV types, scrambling to cover this breaking news. Technicians from the four network affiliates, the CW, CNN, a couple of local cable stations and the Emerson College journalism class have staked out spots for their imminent live broadcasts. Masts from a lineup of microwave vans poke into the star-scattered sky like huge yellow forks against the late June night. Technicians inside the vans, sliding doors left open to let in the breeze, briskly read out coordinates to colleagues back in their stations' control rooms, tweaking audio levels and confirming video feeds are clean.

"They're all set for you," Roger assures me. "We've already got a live signal. Find the truck. Thanks for being a team player, McNally. Just let me know when you're ready."

I trot through the maze of vehicles with the phone still tight to my ear. I know I have to hurry, but I can't be sweaty or out of breath on the air. There it is. With a fist, I bang on the window of Channel 3's ungainly blue-and-gold mobile studio, then wave at the crew inside the truck to announce my arrival.

"Found the van," I say to Roger. "Talk to you later."

It's got to be less than five minutes until airtime.

Photographers from the other stations are snaking out the extension poles of their powerful spotlights. The parking lot illuminates almost into daylight, as megawattage hits the fidgeting reporters anticipating their face time and their chance to bring home the lead story. Some on-the-air types mutter to themselves, practicing the scripts they've scrawled onto their notepads. Others preen in pocket mirrors, adding lip gloss or a final spritz of hairspray.

A row of cameras perch atop metal tripods like electronic flamingos, set up and ready to roll. One tripod is empty. Ours.

Not good. Not good. Not good. We've supposedly got a producer inside who'll bring me info, but so far no one's come out to give me the scoop. Not good.

I click on my cell phone to send a frantic Mayday. Just then, I see my photographer Walt Petrucelli, sweaty and disheveled in a baggy Channel 3 T-shirt and voluminous khaki shorts, muttering to himself as he lugs his camera from the trunk of a news car. Acting as if there's all the time in the world. The ring of keys yanking down one belt loop jingles as Walt clicks the Sony into ready position and gives one tripod leg an irritated kick into place. "Why me?" He questions the universe as he peers through his viewfinder, adjusting focus. "Buncha bullshit."

Walt looks up, does a double take as if he's seeing me for the first time. "Bringin' out the big shots, huh?" he says. "How'd you get the short straw, McNally?"

Ignoring him, I position myself in front of the camera. Using the lens as a mirror, I take a second to check my reflection. My high-maintenance blond bangs are reasonably straight, my trademark red lipstick reasonably applied, and the black suit I put on for work today — about a million hours ago — reasonably unwrinkled. As good as it's going to get.

Every mosquito and midge in New England dives and swoops across the klieg lights in front of me, probably deciding which ones will go on the attack during my live shot. Happy-go-lucky motorists out on Cambridge Street, also attracted by the lights, honk their horns as they drive by.

I twist an earpiece into place, clicking its cord into the control room connection box I've clipped onto the waistband of my skirt.

"Can they see me back at the station?" I ask Walt, tuning everything else out. I pat my lapel. Nothing. "Where's my microphone?"

Right now, a camera inside at the news conference had better be feeding video to the station. If this all works the way it should, the producer will put Ortega's announcement, live, on the news. I'll know what Oz says because I'll hear it on air through my earpiece.

Right now I'm hearing only silence.

"Yeah, yeah, hold your horses." Walt, molasses, finally clips a tiny black microphone to my jacket. "Control room's got you now."

A deafening shriek screams into my ear through the audio receiver, followed by a blast of static. Then, finally, a voice. Which I can almost understand. Then total silence. "Lost audio," I tell Walt, attempting to stay calm. "What's the control room trying to tell me?"

"Four minutes," Walt says.

I contemplate ripping out my earpiece, yanking off my microphone, and going home. I have no news release. I have no idea what's going on in the news conference, and I'm about to appear live in front of a million people. And, undoubtedly, Mother is one of them. They'll all watch this live shot crash and burn.

But maybe not. I see a familiar figure power through the revolving door of the A.G.'s office building. He runs across the parking lot toward me, skids to a halt and bends over to catch his breath, hands on his knees. Then Franklin Parrish saves my life.

"It's underway now," my producer says. "Oz announcing for governor." He looks up at me, one hand still on a knee, confirming. "The anchor's gonna toss to Oz's statement live, then come to you for the wrap-up."

"Three minutes," Walt intones.

In my earpiece, now thankfully static-free, I hear the audio of our newscast. I hear Amanda Lomax, her trademark throaty anchor-voice telling viewers of the surprise candidacy of Oscar Ortega, instant front-runner for governor. And then I hear Oz himself, basso profundo, begin to intone his platform. I imagine he's turned his crowd-pleasing charisma up to full blast. He's clearly not much for exercise, but with his dark wavy hair and killer smile, it's also clear he thinks he's irresistibly charming, and he may be right. Most women seem to vote yes, no matter what he asks for.

Walt holds up two fingers. "Two minutes."

Franklin blots his face with a pristinely ironed handkerchief, pushing his tortoiseshell glasses onto the top of his head, then pulls a piece of paper from his jeans pocket. "Okay, Charlotte. Here's the news release for y'all," he says, smoothing out the wrinkles.

This signals Franklin's just as tense as I am. He always calls me Charlotte, which, instead of carrying Mother's undercurrent of criticism, comes out sounding adorably like "Shaw-lit." But "y'all"? His otherwise usually subdued Southern accent only reappears when he's under pressure. Still, I've worked with him long enough to know he thrives on pressure.

"Just read it," Franklin instructs. "It's got the whole drill, law and order, convictions out the wazoo, death to infidels, all that. Y'all — you know the lowdown on this guy, right?"

I do, in fact. Oscar Ortega: recruitment poster for the prosecution — cool, hot, and politically connected. Known for his outrageous neckties and outrageous legal talent. Scholarship to Boston College. Scholarship to Yale Law. Could cross-examine blood out of a turnip. And some predict he'll step out of the attorney general's office, percolate for a term or two on Beacon Hill, then head for the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"Thanks, Franko," I say, taking the release. Less than a minute to go. I'll read it through quickly, then use it to sum up when Oz is finished. Done it a million times. Like riding a bike. "No problem."


I can't see the words. I mean, I can see that there are words, but they're a complete blur. I glance over at Franklin, ready to ask if there's a problem with the copy he's offered. I can easily see the crease in his predictably impeccable jeans, the tiny polo pony on his pink knit shirt, even how the ten-o'clock stubble on his face darkens his coffee skin to espresso.


Excerpted from Face Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Copyright © 2009 Hank Phillippi Ryan. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Face Time (Charlotte McNally Series #2) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
How deep is a mother's love that would do just about anything, including kill to protect that young woman? Charlie McNally is back again as the 46 year old, multiple Emmy Award-winning TV journalist investigator who is expected to come up with another dynamic story that will win awards and keep Channel 3 news as the most popular Massachusetts TV station. It's a tall order that Charlie isn't sure she can do again, but all of a sudden a story comes along begging to be explored and indicating it's huge enough to topple an election and undo a horrific nightmare for an imprisoned, alleged murderer. New evidence is introduced to evidence that indicates that Dorinda Keeler Sweeney may be falsely imprisoned for the murder of her husband, even though she did freely confess to that crime. As well as wanting to free a wrongly imprisoned inmate, Charlie is also quickly made aware that such a story might ruin the career of Massachusetts Attorney General Oscar Ortega, who is running on a perfect crime solver reputation but who just might be something that isn't quite as perfect as he suggests. While Charlie and Franklin, her perfect work partner, are gaining leads in this process, Charlie is also coping with meeting the daughter of her new love, Jonathan. Penny's a young girl who is obviously and unexplainably hostile when Penny appears. She's a little girl missing her parents being together and worrying that a replacement is in line for her real Mom's place. While this oil-water relationship continues, Charlie's own Mom is having her plastic surgeon do beautifying surgery on her and wants Charlie to do likewise. Enticed but wary, Charlie watches her Mom's healing process carefully and refuses to commit to any decision on taking twenty years off her physical appearance a la surgical transformation. Once again, Hank P. Ryan has done it very well, indeed! As a matter of fact, this novel is much better paced and plotted than her first novel in the Charlotte McNally series. It proceeds at a solid pace and keeps the reader totally hooked into the "Who did it?" mode, anxious to keep flipping the pages to find out more and very sorry when the story reaches its unexpected, exciting conclusion. Keep writing, Ms. Ryan! You've got the stuff for great crime drama! Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on September 10, 2009
AuthorKellyMoran More than 1 year ago
Author Hank Phillippi Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter at Boston's NBC affiliate. She has twenty-six Emmy's and ten Edward R. Murrow Awards, along with dozens of other national and international journalism honors. Her work has resulted in new laws, homes removed from foreclosure, criminals sent to prison, and millions of dollars in restitution. Before her reporting career, she was a proofreader, a radio reporter, an Editorial Assistant at Rolling Stone, and a legislative aide in the US Senate. Other titles include: Prime Time and Air Time (coming September 2009.) She resides just outside of Boston, MA, with her husband. Veteran TV reporter, Charlotte McNally, is fighting to get a woman wrongfully convicted of murder out of prison. The problem is, the woman the media refers to as "Deadly Dori" confessed to the crime three years ago and has no intention of recanting that. Her lawyer has found new evidence of her innocence, and Charlotte knows this is the story of a lifetime, so why won't Dori do an interview and why on earth would she want to stay in prison for something she didn't do? The deeper Charlotte digs into the case, the more people turn up dead, and Charlotte seems to be the next target. The only complaint I have for the book, which I suppose isn't really a complaint, is I missed the "Things they don't teach you in J-school" commentary from the first book, which refers to sarcastic inner thoughts from Charlotte about the things they don't learn in journalism school. This is book two in the Charlotte McNally Mystery series, with Prime Time before it and Air Time after. These books are cozy mysteries with romantic elements. In book one, Charlotte meets Josh, a handsome college professor, and in this one, it follows their budding relationship and the trials Charlotte has with Josh's eight-year-old daughter, Penny, as well as the investigation. I said it before in my earlier review for the first book, but the author has a dry, witty sense of humor that comes through splendidly in this series. Readers will find themselves not only intrigued by the investigation, rooting for Penny to give in and accept Charlotte, and the romance with Josh, but laughing hysterically in the process. I adore the secondary character, Franklin, who is Charlotte's gay southern producer, and her mother's constant pursuit of anti-aging. The dialog between them will have you rolling. Very well-paced, the plot flowed smoothly, without any dead spots. The setting, which is the Boston area, was laid out beautifully. Most of all, you won't be disappointed by the "real killer." Recommended! Kelly Moran, Author and Reviewer
Guest More than 1 year ago
TV reporter Charlotte 'Charlie' McNally has been given a tape proving Dorinda Sweeney, dubbed 'Deadly Dorie,' could not have killed her husband four years ago because she was nowhere near her home during the killing. Looking for a Nielsen rating victory, Charlie and her producer Franklin set out to prove Dorie's innocence. Problem is that Dorie maintains her guilt and refuses to talk to anyone. The Attorney General has just announced his candidacy for governor and is applying pressure to Charlie's station to drop the story. He built his career on her conviction and doesn't want to see her go free. In the meantime, things with Josh are a bit rocky. His eight-year-old daughter refuses to warm up to Charlie. And if that weren't enough, her mother is in the area to recover from some cosmetic work and she's a bit demanding of Charlie's time. People associated with Dorie's case keep dying. Charlie believes this proves the real killer is still out there. Can Charlie find the killer before they put their sites on Charlie? I really enjoy this series. Charlie is a fun character. I like the fact that she's a TV investigative reporter and that we get a glimpse into her life. It shows just how much work goes into the various stories we see on TV. Plus I like the various characters she encounters and works with. I think the author did a great job of creating the setting and characters in this book. The sub-plots were expertly weaved together with the main plot and never took over. It is a quick read but yet has a good mystery to keep the reader engaged. I highly recommend this book and series.
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
TV investigative reporter Charlotte "Charlie" McNally has been given the scoop of a lifetime - a woman in prison for murder is innocent, even though she confessed. But can Charlie prove it without the woman's help? The pacing was uneven, but I loved spending more time around these characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello! Im crystallgearts... you seem happy....smiles with glee.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ugh super fun and mintpaw the woods are result 11 i think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dances around camp as happy as could be
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I m so pretty
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can I join ? I am a mateless tom and would like to get a mate I have icy blue eyes and a stone gray pelt
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Um i uh...