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BLOOD MONEY by James Grippando: Book Review

Jack Swyteck is the attorney for the trial of the twenty-first century in James Grippando’s latest thriller, Blood MoneyThe story, which is similar to a spectacular trial that was recently in the headlines, has twists that will keep the reader turning the pages of the novel faster and faster until the ending is reached.

Sydney Bennett is on trial for her life for the murder of her daughter Emma, two years old at the time of her disappearance.  As the prosecution tells it, Sydney liked life in the fast lane, and her young daughter was cramping her style.  After her daughter disappeared from their home, Sydney was photographed drinking and bar-hopping and apparently showing no sorrow.  Then, three years later, Emma’s body was discovered in a shallow grave in the Everglades.

Although a time and even a cause of death were never discovered due to the length of time between the child’s disappearance and the discovery of her body, public opinion agrees that Sydney is guilty.  When the book opens, on the day the verdict is to be delivered, hundreds of protestors are outside the courthouse with signs demanding “Justice for Emma,” by which they mean the death penalty for Sydney.

But when the verdict is announced, virtually everyone is stunned–Not Guilty.  And then chaos ensues.

Leading the media frenzy surrounding the arrest and trial is Faith Corso, a former prosecutor and current personality on the BNN network.  Throughout the trial Faith has demonized Sydney, giving her the now-famous nickname of Shot Mom (for the whiskey shots she was photographed drinking after Emma’s disappearance).

It’s easy to hate Sydney, given the severity of the crime she’s accused of, her posturing in court, and her refusal to say anything more to her lawyer than that she’s innocent.  And when she realizes that she and Jack are not on the same page regarding her future–she sees herself giving interviews at one hundred thousand dollars per and perhaps being the subject of a television movie as well–they come to a parting of the ways.  His injunction that Sydney needs to keep a low profile seems to fall on deaf ears.

The picture gets even bleaker.  Jack has arranged for Sydney to leave the Miami-Dade Women’s Correction Center under cover of night, trying to avoid the large crowd that is camped in front of the prison.  Egged on by one of BNN’s reporters, the crowd is hostile and dangerous, waiting for Sydney’s release.  Shouting “no blood money” over and over, the people are whipping themselves into a fever when one of them believes she has spotted Sydney walking out the jail’s door.  The crowd surges over the woman and knocks her to the ground. But when the people are forcibly disbursed by the police, it’s discovered that the woman is not Sydney Bennett but a younger woman who looks much like her, and Sydney is nowhere to be seen.

Many of the novel’s most unpleasant characters, unfortunately, are totally believable.  Sydney, even years after her daughter’s death, expresses nothing that could charitably be called maternal instinct; her only thoughts are how best to promote herself and earn big money.  Her father is a bully who refuses to allow his wife to speak to Jack.  Faith Corso is a media star whose only interest appears to be the story, regardless of whether the story is factual or not.  And the head of the BNN network will literally stop at nothing to boost the ratings of his programs.

Blood Money is the tenth novel in James Grippando’s Jack Swyteck series.  You can read more about the author at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at this web site.