Wednesday, January 17

When Darkness Falls by James Grippando

Review by Gloria Feit 

As this novel opens, the homeless man known as Falcon, for the third time in eighteen months, has climbed atop a bridge in Miami and declares his intention to jump.  Each time he is successfully talked down.  Sgt. Vincent Paulo, who despite his recent blindness continues to work as a crisis negotiator with the City of Miami P.D., although now primarily teaching at the Police Academy, has again succeeded in preventing Falcon's suicide.  Falcon is jailed on a number of charges resulting from this latest incident, and Jack Swyteck, an attorney and the son of Florida's former governor, has agreed to defend him pro bono.  But then, this man whose place of abode had been an abandoned car, comes up with not only Jack's fee, but the $10,000 cash bail as well.  After he is freed from jail, a body turns up, found in the trunk of that very vehicle.  Falcon is the prime suspect, and he runs.


Jack and Theo Knight – the latter a black high school dropout 'with the brawn of a linebacker and the height of an NBA star" – whom Jack had successful represented long enough to overturn a death row murder conviction, make an unlikely duo as protagonists, along with Vince Paulo.  The book goes on into hidden agendas and deadly secrets in standard thriller fare.  But a much more important story is being told here:  that of the "Desaparecidos," the 'disappeared ones' of Argentina of the late 1970's and '80's, with tens of thousands of people having been abducted – tortured and/or killed – by the military junta which had taken control of the government, with ramifications extending to present-day Miami, Florida.  These elements are drawn together by the author, but I have to say that the tale didn't really work for me on either level. 


The major portion of the book deals with a hostage situation with the suspense rising till nearly the conclusion of the book, with all the aforementioned major characters involved.  The references of those frightening times in Argentina with ramifications to the present day are all interesting and horrifying, but the book was a disappointment for me – I had read this author in the past and enjoyed his writing, but not this time.  However, YMMV.


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