Hank Phillippi Ryan knocks it out of the park again with her compelling legal thriller, The Murder List, showing that her writing skills cover more than one subgenre of crime after last year’s wonderful Agatha award-nominated Trust Me, which was named a Best Thriller by the New York Posst, CrimeReads, and Real Simple Magazine, among others.

Rachel North is a law student married to well-known defense lawyer, Jack Kirkland. She’s gone to law school as an older student and brings a wealth of knowledge with her from her days working for a State Senator. Excited to only have one year left, she’s doing her summer internship to learn the ropes.

The county’s top prosecutor, Martha Gardiner, is known as a fierce competitor, someone who hates to lose, especially against Jack North. So when Rachel is assigned a summer internship to Gardiner’s office, it’s the first wrinkle in their otherwise perfect marriage. Jack is less than thrilled that Rachel’s internship will be with his nemesis.

Ryan competently shows how events from Rachel’s past jury duty six years earlier led to Rachel meeting Jack. Readers also see her at her job for the Senator at that time, and how that ties in to what’s happening in the present.

And some present it is, with Rachel getting a first-hand look at the machinations and lengths Gardiner will go to for a conviction. With her long-term goal to be Jack’s defense partner, Rachel’s goal is to learn Gardiner’s methods. That will only help them when they go up against the formidable prosecutor in court as Kirkland and North.

But things are not as they seem on several levels. Ryan plays fair while challenging the reader to see the climax as the twists keep coming. Auntie M went back after the surprising end to re-read places where the clues were all laid out.

This is a complex and compelling story, set within a realistic world, with duplicity the stakes of the game. And this one’s highly recommended.