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Cash Landing


Cash Landing

Andie Henning is a newly arrived FBI transfer to Miami from Seattle, hoping to establish herself in a city as far away as possible from her ex-fiance. However, the focus of James Grippando’s latest novel is more on the villains of the piece, a trio of thieves who are both more and less than the sum of their parts and whose incompetence and short-sightedness ultimately make them all the more dangerous.

Henning’s baptism by fire in Miami occurs when the threesome, appropriately masked, exploits the all-too-obvious weaknesses in the the currency transference that occurs on a weekly basis. The transfer involves the shipment of close to $100 million in currency via air transport from German banks to the Federal Reserve Bank in Florida. The trio isn’t greedy, all things considered, at least on the front end. They are happy to get away with less than a tenth of that. The three who pull this off --- with an assist from two others --- are led, to some extent, by Ruban Betancourt.

It is Ruban who is seemingly a victim here, having lost his business and his home to bad loans and bank misrepresentations. He plans to get a bit of his own back with the heist, figuring that he has it coming because of what he has been through. His plan is simple enough, and maybe even touched by genius in spots: hit the warehouse where the plane is being unloaded, load the bags of currency into a pickup, and load the pickup into a delivery truck. They have an inside guy who is a longtime friend of Ruban working in the warehouse, and an outside guy who is going to get rid of the pickup, which, of course, will be spotted speeding away from the scene of the crime.

"CASH LANDING is one of the better caper novels of 2015, inspired by true events and certainly more realistic than not.... Grippando throws in enough surprises and character flaws to make it a worthwhile and occasionally humorous read..."

While the plan survives the fog of battle and is executed practically flawlessly, it quickly begins to come apart. The problem is with Ruban’s main crew. He apparently never heard of the admonition against going into business with your in-laws. Ruban worships his wife, Savannah --- his mantra seems to be “whatever Savannah wants, Savannah gets” --- but her uncle Pinky and all-but-hapless brother, Jeffrey, are another thing entirely. Jeffrey still lives at home with his mother, spending his nights vacuuming lines of cocaine with strip club dancers and his days sleeping it off. One thing that is never fully explained is how Jeffrey can weigh in at an excess of 300 pounds on a diet of nose candy. Be that as it may, his judgment is reflective of his intellect.

Uncle Pinky, meanwhile, is as cold, calculating and vicious as Jeffrey is stupid. Ruban’s admonition that the crew keep a low profile for a couple of months after the heist falls victim to Jeffrey’s appetite for women and bling and Pinky’s avarice. Pinky begins sharing the love with the strippers, while he’s determined to increase his share of the heist, no matter what it takes to do it.

With a very determined Henning in the pack, the FBI is on the trail of the trio. They are onto Ruban’s inside guy almost immediately (maybe a little too immediately), and are all too well aware that a falling-out among the thieves is almost inevitable. The FBI is actually the least of Ruban’s worries. Other elements of the Miami criminal population are aware of the heist as well and have their collective ear to the ground, looking for some or all of the proceeds. Pinky is also preparing to make his own move on at least some of Ruban’s share of the take. Worst of all, from Ruban’s viewpoint, is what Savannah knows and doesn’t know. He has his hands full, attempting to keep his involvement in the highly publicized robbery secret from Savannah, burying his story in lies, which get him off the hook in the short term but get him in deeper in the long term.

The problem, though, is that as Ruban’s present lies unravel, the other deceptions and omissions that he has created over the course of their relationship begin to come back to haunt him. You can see the train wreck(s) coming practically from the first page; the extent of the damage and its aftermath are a surprise, and almost as entertaining as the journey that precedes them.

CASH LANDING is one of the better caper novels of 2015, inspired by true events and certainly more realistic than not. If you live in a city that has even a medium-sized airport, read this book and then drive around to the back of the facility. You won’t want to linger (trust me on this), but you’ll feel as if you’re about to encounter Ruban and his hapless gang lurking around every corner. And while the novel is a variation on a theme that has been done before (A SIMPLE PLAN immediately comes to mind), Grippando throws in enough surprises and character flaws to make it a worthwhile and occasionally humorous read, whether you have a brother-in-law like Jeffrey or not. Read it and chuckle.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 12, 2015

Cash Landing
by James Grippando

  • Publication Date: February 23, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0062295462
  • ISBN-13: 9780062295460