HEAR NO EVIL is the fourth of James Grippando's novels to feature Jack Swyteck, a Miami criminal defense attorney. Grippando, as he did in THE PARDON, BEYOND SUSPICION and LAST TO DIE, seamlessly melds Swyteck's professional and personal life into a puzzling mystery with significant consequences for all concerned.
HEAR NO EVIL begins with a woman entering Swyteck's life, seeking representation and bringing him shattering news. Lindsey Hart is about to be arrested for the murder of her husband, Oscar Pintado, a marine officer stationed at Guantanamo Naval Base. She wants Swyteck to represent her; he demurs, due to his lack of familiarity with military law. Hart then drops another bombshell: she and Pintado are the adoptive parents of Swyteck's son, Brian --- a son he has never known, a ten-year-old hearing-impaired youth who was asleep in his bed while Pintado was being murdered in the next room. Swyteck is stunned by the revelation and feels obligated to undertake Hart's representation in the matter.
Swyteck travels to Guantanamo where he finds that the military is attempting to stymie his investigation of the murder and his defense of Hart. However, Swyteck obtains some surprise assistance from an extremely unlikely source: a Cuban military officer who is willing to help Swyteck for reasons that are not immediately evident. Swyteck, while reticent to accept help from such a source, needs all the help he can get.
His biggest obstacle in defending this case is not the United States military, or even the victim's father, a prominent anti-Castro Miami businessman; rather, it is his own client. Hart, it seems, cannot move her lips without lying to Swyteck, even when it would be in her best interest to tell the truth. Swyteck must find his way through several layers of deception emanating from several sources to defend a client who he suspects may well be guilty but who, for the sake of his son, he has to defend to the best of his ability. At the same time, he must deal with revelations about his own past that will shake him to the core of his being.
Grippando's style over the course of his previous eight novels has become as compelling as anyone working in the genre. He is dramatic without resorting to theatrics; most of the violence in HEAR NO EVIL takes place off of the printed page, yet Grippando infuses his narration with an electrifying tension and excitement from beginning to end. Theo Knight, Swyteck's enigmatic and charismatic friend and private investigator, provides some comic relief, as well as giving Swyteck effective if unorthodox assistance in trial matters. HEAR NO EVIL also introduces Sofia Suarez, a Miami attorney who assists Swyteck in Hart's defense. Grippando does a superb job of creating some understated chemistry between Swyteck and Suarez, and I would not be surprised to see Suarez appear in a future Swyteck novel in a more prominent, and different, role.
Given that Grippando is currently at work on another Swyteck novel, we should soon know if that will be the case.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011