We were once again joined by the Mystery Author Phenom known as Hank Phillippi Ryan for our discussion on her first stand-alone: Trust Me. Our first observation was to note her daunting, but fascinating stores of energy that not only allow her to be an outstanding investigative reporter and award-winning writer, but to maintain the (high) number of visits, conferences, and events she both attends and participates in. We all want to know what vitamins she is taking!
As we’d discussed before her arrival, this story is a mind-bender for determining the whole, “real” truth behind the case of baby Tasha Nicole Bryant – and the accused: her mother, Ashley Bryant. Hank gave us this insightful observation that she made about a personal situation that shows how difficult it is to legally determine the guilt or innocence of a person.
She was wishing her husband (a well-known and highly respected defense attorney) the best on an upcoming case by saying “You have built an incredible case from the evidence, it’ll be a slam-dunk for you.” Then, after he’d left, it occurred to Hank that the prosecuting attorney’s wife was probably at home saying “Sweetheart you’ve built an incredibly convincing case from the evidence, it’ll be a slam-dunk for you.” Which of them was right? And isn’t this exactly what we citizens want to see in the courtroom from both sides?
We talked about how, in all cases, there’s the likelihood that some evidence will never be presented at the trial because both attorneys believe it will hamper their cases. This in turn, can mean a juror would have voted differently had the evidence been shared. While we all agreed our system is flawed – in some cases, deeply flawed, it is still the most balanced presentation of a person’s guilt or innocence that legally exists. Hank talked about how very important our belief and stance that a person is “innocent until proven guilty” is. That it is key to how our society operates that the jurors have to vote on the strength of the evidence presented, to be the most fair to the person on trial. It has to exist outside of personal perceptions and biases. Everyone involved in the case in the story and every reader of the story feels the guilt of this mother, but the evidence has to prove her guilt.
We noted the strong resemblance to the Casey Anthony case and how Ashley even uses some of the same tactics as that case revealed. The bigger revelation for our participants, was that Hank herself – just like her protagonist Mercer – had been hired to write the Anthony case as a true crime novel; that the details of Mercer’s use of the live feed and the pressure to produce the story on the fly, and publish within days of the trial’s conclusion was something Hank had been asked to do! With the dismissal of the charges against Anthony, the issues involved in the case: perceptions and their effect on “the truth”, and whether we can ever get to the full truth were things that led Hank to write this book. Along with these concerns, we also added that people have a deep need to feel that justice has been served for the victim(s) involved. In terms of the story, we felt that – at least on the karmic level – some justice was accomplished.
In the course of conversation we threw a challenge out to the participant and members – one that LLD staff had tried to solve as well: There is something interesting about the book cover on the hardback copies of Trust Me – what is it? As Hank said, once you’ve seen it, you cannot un-see it! Click here to have the answer revealed!
There were many more points in the discussion and some pretty witty asides, but we ended the meeting with a chance for members and participants to chat with Hank, witness the official Staking of the Cake (click here for pix!), and pick up a copy of Trust Me for Hank to sign.
We also bestowed parting gifts to her, including a bottle of “Death’s Door Red” from Door County.
She shared with the group that she has a special shelf for special wines she has received that include one with a custom label of “The Other Woman” book cover, and one from Sue Grafton. Our bottle will be joining these!
Many thanks to Hank for so generously spending time with us. Everyone had a wonderful and memorable evening!