Review

A King's Ransom

by James Grippando



One of the bonuses of a good legal thriller is that you're bound to
learn something about the complexities of our legal system, even as
you marvel at how many ways it can be twisted and stretched by some
crafty litigator on the wrong side of the conference table. In A
KING'S RANSOM, Nick Rey learns the hard way that it takes more than
a law degree and a moral conviction to find justice in life. You
need to be skilled in anticipating your opponent and fearless in
rolling the dice. And most of all, you need to know who the real
opponent is.

In one of the most topical novels of our time, James Grippando has
created a dramatic fictional parallel to the tragic headlines that
have become all to common --- a kidnapping for ransom in a Latin
American country. Political violence and drug trafficking are the
evil catalysts for what has become a thriving "industry," with many
of the revolutionary groups operating in South America. As
Grippando states in his acknowledgments: "In the time it would take
to read this novel in one sitting, four more people will be
kidnapped for ransom in Colombia." If you doubt his calculations,
go to any online news source. The stories are plentiful, the
statistics are mind-boggling.

Matthew Rey, Nick's father, becomes the target of such a kidnapping
when he travels to Colombia to buy more fishing boats for his
seafood company. An American on Colombian soil is a favorite
target, and he falls into the hands of the most vile leader of the
rebel fringes. Within hours, Nick learns of his father's
disappearance, and the ordeal for both victim and family begins.
The stonewalling by the state department and the mysterious
reluctance of the FBI only add to Nick's initial frustration in
attempting to find someone who can negotiate his father's
release.

As if the complexities of international terrorism, cold-hearted
diplomacy, and the questionable FBI involvement aren't enough to
raise your blood pressure, Grippando compounds the tale with
another villain in the form of a major insurance company. Nick's
father had purchased a "kidnap and ransom" policy, which provides
for an experienced negotiator, in the event that his family was
ever faced with this situation. Shortly after Rey's mother
discovers the policy in a bank box, our negotiator shows up at the
front door. She is the total professional --- Colombian born and a
former member of FARC (the largest of the guerrilla revolutionary
groups in Colombia). Her expertise will be invaluable.

However, the policy stipulates that no one can be told that the
policy exists beforehand, or the contract is void. When Matthew's
kidnappers demand a three million dollar ransom, the exact dollar
amount of the policy, the insurance company withdraws their support
and refuses to pay. And to complicate matters, when Nick attempts
to force the issue through a lawsuit, he discovers that the one
person he counted on the most is now seated on the other side of
the table. Accusations about his father's business activities and
the motivations for his kidnapping lead Nick in a number of
directions, trying to uncover secrets from the past and present to
learn who his father really is before the Colombians make good on
their threats.

With skillful ease, Grippando alternates the story from Nick's
narrative to the jungles of Colombia, where we witness the
cruelties of the kidnappers and the suffering of their victims.
Sadistic indifference to human life is the rule, and the portrait
of the guerrillas emerges in shocking detail. Many are mere
teenagers seduced by the promise of fast money, the power of an
AK-47, and the inevitable supply of drugs they've become accustomed
to in their poverty-stricken villages. The picture that Grippando
paints through the eyes of both Nick and Matthew is dark and tragic
from any angle and is rooted in over four decades of bloody
revolutions that have turned Colombia into a predatory
culture.

Who betrayed Matthew Rey --- and why --- is buried deep within the
secret histories of family, friends, and business associates,
adding a multidimensional suspense to an already mesmerizing plot.
Grippando has created a forceful novel that is both fascinating and
disturbing and guaranteed to send you searching the headlines for
updates on the grim, true life stories that inspired this fictional
blockbuster of suspense.

Reviewed by Ann Bruns (BkPageWC@aol.com) on January 22, 2011

A King's Ransom
by James Grippando

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Avon
  • ISBN-10: 0061097845
  • ISBN-13: 9780061097843