Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book Review: BLOOD MONEY

HARPER (HarperCollins Publishers) – @HarperCollins

AUTHOR: James Grippando
ISBN: 978-0-06-210984-2; hardcover (January 2013)
342pp, B&W, $26.99 U.S.

James Grippando is an American author and trial lawyer. He is known for writing suspense novels in the crime fiction genre, including legal thrillers, apparently drawing upon his experiences as an attorney.

Blood Money is Grippando’s latest book. A 2013 crime fiction novel, Blood Money is also the tenth novel featuring Grippando’s Miami-based, criminal defense attorney, Jack Swyteck. I took a review copy of Blood Money from Harper on a lark. Thank you, Mr. Lark. I have no regrets because Blood Money is a hugely-entertaining read.

Blood Money begins with the most sensational murder trial since O.J. Simpson. Sydney Bennett, sexy night club waitress and good-time girl, was charged with the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Emma Bennett. Three years after the drama began, Sydney is found not guilty. Millions of “TV jurors” had already convicted Sydney in the courtroom of public opinion. Now, the shocking “not guilty” verdict has them out for Sydney’s blood.

And some of that rage and vitriol has been reserved for her attorney, Jack Swyteck, who never really wanted to take Sydney’s case and basically had it fall in his lap. Jack is ready to ride out the verdict’s fallout, which includes angry, profanity-laced phone calls and even death threats. However, the cable news network, BNN (Breaking New Network), leads a flurry of media-fed rumors, claiming “blood money” in the form of seven-figure book and movie deals. The craziness explodes in an incident that puts a young college student, Celeste Laramore, in a coma.

The media blames Jack for what happened to Celeste, but her parents reach out to him for help. Others reach out for a piece of Jack. Faith Corso, host of BNN’s The Faith Corso Show, targets him. The mysterious Merselus watches Jack’s every move. Jack’s fiancé, FBI agent Andie Henning, wonders if Jack’s case is endangering her career. Jack’s legal career is in jeopardy, and so is everyone he loves. To discover the truth behind Emma Bennett’s murder and what happened to Celeste, Jack has to take on many powerful forces, some hiding in the shadows and others targeting him.

Being a semi-literary snob, I generally avoid novels that compete for space on the various bestsellers’ list and also novels that could be considered “pop fiction.” Plus, I am a science fiction and fantasy fan, so I spend time reading books in those genres. I am glad that I threw aside pretentiousness and some H.P. Lovecraft that I want to read in order to get down into Blood Money.

The term, “page-turner,” was invented to describe great reads like Blood Money. The surprises and twist-and-turns had me flipping through this book as if my life depended on it. I took this book everywhere in order to read at least a few pages while waiting or running errands. There are so many shockers in here that you will either find it too contrived or a sumptuous feast of titillation.

Readers, of course, will recognize Blood Money’s similarities to the Casey Anthony murder trial. Faith Corso bears more than a passing resemblance to tabloid cable news harpy, Nancy Grace, who made both blood money and blood fame, off the Anthony murder trial. BNN, however, is less CNN and more FOX News. Grippando, however, takes Blood Money’s murder case and criminal conspiracies far beyond anything that happened in the real world.

Anyway, for me, Blood Money is the beginning of a beautiful reading-list friendship with James Grippando.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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