Review: Investigative reporter Charlotte "Charlie" McNally is caught between making a decision that will significantly affect either her personal life or her professional life — and probably both — all the while caught up in a mystery of "cloned" cars in Drive Time, the fourth book in this series by Hank Phillippi Ryan.
Charlie has recently become engaged to Josh, a professor at the Bexter Academy. His 9-year-old daughter will live with them, and also attend the academy. For Charlie, it's a dream come true. Except her boss, Kevin, the news director at the Boston television station where she works, has been offered, and has accepted, the position as head of the news division for a cable network in New York City. He wants Charlie to join him, but she's not sure she can juggle working in Manhattan while living near Boston. Meanwhile, she's working on a story involving "cloned" cars, vehicles with identical VIN numbers. Apparently, thieves are taking temporary possession of a car with a clean record, copying its VIN number, and then stealing an identical car, replacing its VIN number, and offering it for sale on a local radio show called "Drive Time". Charlie needs to find out how all this is occurring before February sweeps.
Separately, there's trouble at Bexter Academy. Someone is anonymously calling a student's parents asking them if they know where their child is. Since their child is in school, safe, the calls are considered by authorities to be cruel pranks. But then two school employees die within two weeks of each other — accidents? — and Charlie's investigative instincts tell her there's a connection. She quickly uncovers a web of jealousy, revenge, and extortion in which she's trapped, risking the lives of her new family.
The books in this series are all about Charlie balancing, really juggling, her professional and personal lives, and Drive Time is no exception. One has to wonder how much of this series may be autobiographical! In a similar manner, the storylines that make up both aspects of Charlie's life, illustrating the camaraderie of the newsroom and the affection she shares with Josh and his daughter, are nicely balanced as well. As befits the genre, a murder or two is included for her to solve, but the crimes at times almost seem secondary to everything else that's going on. Still, this is a wonderful series, well written with appealing, clever and intelligent characters who continue to evolve with each succeeding book.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Drive Time.
Acknowledgment: Nancy Berland Public Relations provided a copy of Drive Time for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Mira Books (Mass Market Paperback), September 2009
ISBN-13: 9780778327196; ISBN-10: 0778327191
The Other Woman
Forge Books (Hardcover), September 2012
ISBN-13: 9780765332578; ISBN-10: 0765332574
Location(s) referenced in Drive Time: Boston, Massachusetts
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Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan — A Charlotte McNally Mystery
Publisher: Mira Books
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Publication Date: February 2010
List Price: $7.99