So. Let's say that one evening while sitting in front of the word processor you create a fictional character, a defense attorney who is a little smarter than everyone else but whose personal life is a bit tumultuous --- his work keeps following him home --- and you write a book around him titled THE PARDON, which is extremely well-received. So, you go on to other things. You write a number of other books, each one building on the success of its predecessor, but that lawyer is sitting there, in the back of your mind. Until...
Well, you bring him back. And if you're James Grippando, the name of your creation is Jack Swyteck, introduced in THE PARDON and returning in BEYOND SUSPICION. BEYOND SUSPICION takes place a few years after the events of THE PARDON; it opens with Swyteck, son of a former governor, prosecutor turned defense attorney, in the middle of a civil case. Swyteck, who has all he can handle with criminal matters, rarely takes civil cases, but this one is special. It involves former girlfriend Jessie Merrill who, when diagnosed with ALS, is given a two-year life prognosis. She works a settlement under which she arranges to receive from a company of investors partial proceeds from her life insurance policy in return for naming the company the beneficiary of the life insurance policy upon her death. Problems begin when it develops that Merrill was misdiagnosed, so it will be quite some time before the investors collect. Merrill is being sued by the investors as a result.
Swyteck is able to win the case relatively easily, but little does he suspect that his problems are just beginning. Merrill is found dead in Swyteck's home just two days later. The death at first looks like a suicide; evidence soon surfaces, however, which indicates that Swyteck and Merrill were having an affair and may have even colluded in an act of fraud --- and which leads to suspicions that Swyteck might have murdered Merrill. Swyteck is left reeling by the discovery of the body and the accusations that follow. Beset from all sides, Swyteck turns to Theo Knight, his former client and current friend. Knight is a somewhat shady character with his own way of doing things, and his methods sometimes cause more harm than help. What Swyteck soon discovers, however, is that the unhappy investors are much more than an ordinary group of speculators. Swyteck's attempts to clear himself lead him into intrigues from across the ocean as well as his own past and present. The conclusion leaves Swyteck, and the reader, reeling and uncertain.
Grippando demonstrates in BEYOND SUSPICION that he is not beyond taking major chances with the lives of his characters. The ending of BEYOND SUSPICION is as surprising and unsettling as anything you are likely to read this year. Hopefully, Grippando's readers, and Swyteck's fans, will not have to wait another six years or so for another installment in Swyteck's life. One suggestion: a character as intriguing and complex as Theo Knight just might be deserving of a book of his own. Read BEYOND SUSPICION and see if you agree.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 1, 2003