Hank Phillippi Ryan’s brilliant stand-alone, Trust Me, will keep readers riveted to their copy, flipping pages well after the light should be off.

Trust me: how often do people say that phrase in everyday conversation? It takes on new menace when uttered by Ashlyn Bryant, the young mother accused of murdering her three year-old daughter.

Mercer Hennessey is the writer dealing with unspeakable grief after a tragic accident. “People learn to live with grief. Their lives go on after a loss, even after a devastating loss. They have to keep living. I suppose.”

Katherine Craft is her editor and friend, and the one urging Mercer to take on the job of watching Ashlyn’s trial in real time to write an “instant book” about the Baby Boston murder trial. Katherine knows Mercer needs the money, but she needs a goal more.

Baby Boston has been identified as Tasha Nicole Bryant. And now Mercer has a reason to get out of bed every morning. Maybe there’s nothing she can do for her beloved Sophie, or her husband, Dex, but there is something she can do for Tasha. Tell her story.

So begins a most well-crafted tale, one of the struggle to deal with grief, and how that drives one writer to seek justice for a little dead girl. Mercer is convinced Ashlyn is guilty and sets about writing the book that will reveal that.

But wait! What if the mother on trial is really innocent? What if Ashlyn’s party lifestyle, reminiscent of a Casey Anthony, hides a good mother grieving for her child? How will Mercer distinguish between what is real and what is fiction?

With little forensic evidence linking Ashlyn to her daughter’s body, there’s plenty of room for speculation. Was Ashlyn a savvy murderer or was there another conspiracy at work?

As Mercer is forced to examine the roles we play, the script of our lives, weird things start to happen to her: a near-miss car accident; a toaster burning up and setting off the fire alarm in the middle of the night when no one was making toast.

What is the truth of the situation? Mercer comes to learn there are three possibilities concerning truth: “What we think it is. How someone presents it to us. And what it really is. The deep and inscrutable singular truth.”

With chapter endings that hold a punch, and told from Mercer’s point of view as the story evolves, this is Ryan’s most complex story yet, and one readers won’t be able to put down. Highly recommended.