James Grippando has seized a story straight from the headlines with his new novel Blood Money. This is another Jack Swyteck thriller with the Miami defense lawyer facing fallout from his defense of accused child-killer Sydney Bennett. This is a fictional "what if" novel that deals with amazingly similar events to those that took place in the notorious Casey Anthony trial. There is even a television anchor/reporter named Faith Corso who will instantly bring Nancy Grace to mind. All of this similarity keeps the story interesting for a while but eventually the association wears thin and the plot bogs down in crazy coincidences.
Through a series of events Jack Swyteck ended up being defense counsel for Sydney Bennett in one of the most notorious murder trials in Florida history. Once Sydney has been found not guilty of the death of her two-year-old daughter Emily, Jack thinks Sydney is out of his life for good. It is goodbye and good riddance. However more events occur and bind them together once again.
Meanwhile TV anchor/reporter Faith Corso maintains her diatribe against Sydney AND her lawyer. She will not let the outcome of Sydney's trial die down and her rampage keeps Jack on the hot seat in the arena of public opinion. It also puts a stress on his engagement to FBI Agent Andie Hennings. She doesn't want any media scrutiny of their relationship, but Jack feels powerless to stop it.
Eventually the fervor concerning Sydney's whereabouts after the trial is over reaches mania proportions. A young woman who is a Sydney lookalike is attacked by a crowd and put in a coma. Jack is contacted by the parents of this girl to sue on her behalf. When he takes their case Jack is warned in an anonymous threat that "someone he loves" is in jeopardy because of his actions.
For the first half of the book the reader can possibly accept the story as it plays out, but as the coincidences pile up and people are even murdered because of the outcome of this trial, it becomes harder and harder to accept. Grippando makes a noble effort to stay in control but fails at some critical moments.
Still, it is good to read a new story featuring Swyteck and his associates, and they are all here from his buddy Theo to his grandmother Abuela. These are people readers have come to know and love from earlier books.
The facts surrounding the Casey Anthony trial and outcome were difficult to absorb even as they were occurring. To see a similar story that is fiction places too many constraints on what could have happened and why. It takes a real reach to make sense of it all and Grippando falls short of "the reach" with his version.
Blood Money is published by Harper. It contains 342 pages and sells for $26.99.