LAST CALL is the title of James Grippando’s seventh Jack Swyteck/Theo Knight novel and “an announcement made in a bar before serving drinks is stopped.” In this case it’s Sharkey’s Tavern that is shutting down for the night.
“The time was 2:10 AM when the last patron found the parking lot. Two of [Theo’s] employees stayed behind for clean-up…[while Theo] took the cash drawer into the stockroom” to tote up the night’s draw. Suddenly, his worst nightmare appears in the form of Isaac Reems, the former leader of the “Grove Lords,” who has just broken out of jail. He made a beeline for Theo because he knows he can blackmail the bar owner into helping him run from the law. In exchange, he says he will give Theo the name of the man who brutally murdered Theo’s mother, a junkie prostitute, at least 20 years before.
Theo is scared and outraged, so he calls his best friend, criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck. Years ago, when Theo was on death row for a crime he did not commit, it was Jack who proved him innocent and saved his life. The trust and bond between them is unbreakable, and Theo is now Jack’s top-notch investigator.
As events quickly unfold, Isaac is found dead. But as insurance of a kind, Isaac informed Theo that he left clues behind that would show that Theo was helping him hide from the law. This would incriminate Theo in a plan involving murder and a major cover-up, even though Theo is guilty of no serious crimes.
Theo’s Uncle Cy is the third hero in this feisty cast of characters. When Theo’s mother died, he brought the boy up. He is very protective of Theo and will do anything to ensure his safety. He will also keep secrets that could twist his nephew into the thug he was as a teenager. Add to this mix a little romance for the two stars --- strong, smart women who love them dearly --- and you have a fast-paced thriller that reaches into the hearts of its characters, making them likable and memorable.
In addition, LAST CALL contains lots of interesting tidbits of Miami’s history and its heyday as a jazz center in which Uncle Cy was a star. Readers are also given a fast tour traveling from the grim realities of Little Harlem to the upper echelons of Miami’s corruption machine.
Grippando fills the novel with enough murder and mayhem to satisfy any genre-loving fan. His talent for characterization and dialogue transcend the mundane. Readers will find the players and their relationships warm and honest with a spoonful of humor thrown in.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 7, 2011