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by James Grippando
Harper, January 2013
342 pages
ISBN: 0062109847

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Back in 2008, a case captured the headlines in the US news media for weeks. Casey Anthony, party girl, was accused of first degree murder after not reporting the disappearance of her two-year-old daughter. The story was sordid, involving an allegation of sexual abuse against Casey's father and the discovery of Caylee's body near the family home. Ultimately, Anthony was declared not guilty and had to go into hiding to escape from threats to her life.

The plot of BLOOD MONEY, the tenth book in the series featuring criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck is heavily influenced by the Anthony case. Sydney Bennett, referred to in the media as "Shot Mom," is a nightclub waitress who is accused of drowning her two-year-old daughter, Emma, in the family pool. It's clear that Sydney prefers partying to being a responsible adult. Assigned to defend Sydney, Jack has to deal with a hostile public and an overheated media. The worst offender is Faith Corso, a TV journalist for the Breaking News Network who fans the flames. Despite the trial by media, Sydney is declared innocent; and the offers for her story come pouring in—seven-figure movie and book deals, or "blood money." She fully intends to make the most that she can out of the situation.

Jack has plans to spirit Sydney out of the prison when she is released; but before he can do so, a Sydney lookalike is spotted outside the jail and attacked, leaving her in a coma. The news reports insinuate that Jack planted this woman to protect Sydney. Jack is hired by the victim's parents to see if this was more than a random act of violence. The girl, Celeste Laramore, may spend years in medical care, if she does live. And the family does not have insurance.

Sydney Bennett could be Casey Anthony's twin sister; in addition to being thoroughly unlikeable, she is almost universally despised by the public because of her lack of concern for her daughter and for trying to profit from her death. To protect herself against the threats being made against her, Sydney goes into hiding. Jack immediately starts receiving threats against his loved ones if he does not produce her for an anonymous caller, a character who I found to be disappointingly over the top, a wealthy serial killer and nut case. Jack's most immediate concern is for his fiancée, Andie Henning, who is a government undercover agent. Their relationship undergoes quite a bit of turmoil, as being involved with Jack in this situation may expose Andie and cause her to lose all that she has worked for building a hidden identity.

Grippando perfectly captures the inflammatory rhetoric of the media and its almost total lack of interest in presenting the truth. I was really involved in the story until the point when what actually happened to Emma was revealed, which felt very contrived. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the book. It was quite fast paced, and the blatantly untrue accusations made against Jack by the media and their lawyers were very emotionally involving.

§ Formerly a training development manager for a large company, Maddy is now retired and continues to enable the addiction of crime fiction fans as owner of the online discussion group, 4 Mystery Addicts(4MA), while avidly reading in every possible free moment herself.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, January 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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