New York Times bestselling author James Grippando propels his readers into today's furiously paced world of espionage. AFRAID OF THE DARK, his latest Jack Swyteck novel, is no exception. At the start of the book, Sergeant Vince Paulo discovers the bloody, mangled and near-lifeless body of computer guru Chuck Mays's 16-year-old daughter, McKenna, on the floor of her bedroom. She tells him weakly that her boyfriend, Jamal, has done this horrendous deed. While he's trying to save her, a sound from below startles him. He races to the kitchen and thrusts open the door, to be greeted full-face-forward by a deafening blast and blinding heat that pushes him backward into oblivion.
Three years later, Vince has adjusted to living without sight. He's a police instructor for hostage negotiations, the mystery of McKenna's death, her mother's apparent suicide and his blindness unsolved. Jamal has surfaced in Gitmo, a political prisoner accused of terrorism. On request from his friend and former mentor, Jack Swyteck relents to defend the young man. Jamal has insisted that he was kidnapped and detained in a secret dark facility in Prague at the time of McKenna's death. He was waterboarded, beaten and tortured, and finally transported to Gitmo.
Jack's instincts tell him to forget the case and walk away. But when he offers to meet an anonymous caller who wants to provide the truth, his plan goes awry. They're to meet at a public mall, where Jack waits. The caller ends up being stabbed by a blind man's cane, quickly goes into a seizure and dies of coronary arrest before the meeting can occur. Jack's radar immediately latches onto the fact that his client may be innocent and could be in danger himself. Chuck wants his daughter's killer apprehended and reveals that Jamal may have been away from Miami at the time of the murder. It turns out that Jamal had worked for him on a secret project for the government doing encryption detail. Chuck will not offer further information about the project, much to Jack's displeasure.
In court, Jack has cornered Vince about his testimony and the use of a personal recording device when he took words from the dying girl. Jack's deft technique gets his client out on bail but infuriates Vince. Before a trial can take place, Jamal's severed foot and dead body both are discovered near the waterfront. Jack is not off the hook because his mentor's body is found soon after. The puzzle pieces are adding up to a CIA or FBI cover-up of clandestine and illegal torture and kidnap, and now murder. To complicate matters, Jack's fiancé, Andie, is an FBI agent who flatly urges him to drop his involvement with the entire matter. But when friends and informants turn up dead, Jack cannot turn away. A vulgar test message that McKenna had supposedly sent to Jamal before her death keeps reappearing through the twists of the story.
The secondary storyline follows Jack's grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer's and wastes away in a nursing home. Jack is diligent about visiting the old man and listening to his rants. Grandpa Swyteck is convinced that he's Jewish, not Catholic, and is a product of WWII-persecuted Jews in Prague. When Jack visits one day, his cell phone rings. The caller states that Jamal was being tortured in Prague when McKenna was killed and that he is the one who took him there. Clues point to a Somali terrorist organization that has infiltrated the U.S. and London, with tentacles that reach from Miami to Africa.
James Grippando does not allow his readers to rest between gripping events. Murder and mayhem, espionage, pornography for sale, kidnapping, government-contracted torture, and the powers of a super computer form the meat of this latest Jack Swyteck thriller. Not only is Vince blind, but the mysterious predator gives all characters good reason to be afraid of the dark. This book should be put down only for emergencies.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on April 4, 2011