New York Times Bestselling Author

Beyond Suspicion (Swyteck No. 2)

Beyond Suspicion (Swyteck No. 2)

"Smart, sharp ... John Grisham meets Robert Ludlum."
- St. Petersburg Times

After six exciting thrillers in seven years, best-selling author James Grippando is at last bringing back the main character from his blockbuster debut novel, The Pardon

Miami lawyer Jack Swyteck is smart and tough and up to his neck in trouble. With more than a decade of experience in the criminal courts, Jack doesn't handle many civil cases. But this one is different. His client is a gorgeous ex-girlfriend who's being sued because she thought she was going to die. 

When Jessie Merrill was diagnosed with a deadly disease and given just two years to live, she worked a deal with an insurance company to get cash fast. In exchange, a group of wealthy investors were supposed to collect on the policy at her death. But Jessie was misdiagnosed. She isn't going to die anytime soon, and the investors want their money back. Now. 

At the trial, Jack pulls off a brilliant victory and Jessie gets to keep the $1.5 million from the investors. Two days later, Jessie's body turns up in Jack's bathtub. Though it has the markings of suicide, Jessie's death quickly begins to look more like murder. As the evidence mounts against him, Jack finds himself on a collision course with dark secrets from the past and a possible killer who is beyond suspicion.

Critical Praise

"A top-knotch adventure with plenty of supercharged excitement."
- Booklist

"[Grippando] certainly has the imagination and research skills to plot up a storm."
- Publishers Weekly

"Grippando's legal insight and timely subject matter produce a strong narrative punch."
-Miami Herald

BEHIND THE BOOK ...

Dirty Blood and the Russian Mafiya:
The Red Trail To "Beyond Suspcion"  

The newstand had a half-dozen Russian language newspapers to choose from, and I wasn't in Moscow. I was in Hollywood, Florida, a typical suburban community north of Miami. Naturally, I had to ask: What gives?

It turns out that south Florida - known for its ethnic diversity, though usually with a Latin beat - has a sizeable Russian population. The vast majority are law-abiding, good people. But there's a dark side, too. Take Tarzan, for instance. No, not Johnny Weismüller. This Tarzan is a legendary, muscle-bound Russian mobster famous for the drug and sex orgies on his boat off Miami Beach. He's now even more famous (not to mention incarcerated) for a serious but unsuccessful scheme to buy a nuclear submarine from a former Soviet naval officer and then use it to smuggle cocaine from Colombia.

Miami has a new criminal powerhouse knocking at its gates. Brighton Beach, New York is the only place in America with more Russian mobsters - the Mafiya, as it's called. Thankfully, the Mafiya is nowhere near as well organized as La Cosa Nostra, but they are definitely here and growing stronger. With a little help from my law enforcement contacts, I was able to find a Ukranian-born undercover agent who was willing to tell me all about it. One meeting with him, and I knew: There had to be a novel in this.

At the time, I was wrapping up a six-month investigation into the "dirty blood business." I took an inside look at a company that, for profit, collected samples of diseased blood from drug addicts, the homeless, and anyone else who was willing to sell infected bodily fluids to medical research companies. I was surprised to find how loosely regulated this industry was, particularly when you consider that many specimens are collected from people with AIDS and other deadly diseases. It was this business side of terminal illness that started me in an even more intriguing direction: viatical settlements.

Viatical settlements are a growing facet of the insurance industry that started with the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s. Although most people have never even heard the word "viatical," a recent study reported by a leading insurance company concluded that the industry will soon exceed $10 billion. Basically, it's a way for someone diagnosed with a terminally ill disease to get the money they need to fight their disease, or simply to live comfortably in the time they have left. The patient signs his life insurance benefits over to a group of investors. In exchange, the investors pay an immediate, lump-sum cash settlement to the patient, usually about half the value of the policy. So, with a policy of one million dollars, the patient gets a quick half million dollars while he's still alive, to do with as he wishes. The investors collect the full death benefit when the patient dies, doubling their money. It's a little ghoulish, since the investor is betting (indeed, hoping) that the patient will die soon and provide a quick return on the investment.

As a writer, this concept immediately intrigued me, the very idea of a total stranger having a serious financial interest in your early death. I was even more interested when I came across the findings of a Florida grand jury, which concluded that "fraud in the viatical-settlement industry is rampant" and that as many as 40% to 50% of the settlements were tainted with fraud. As I dug deeper, I discovered a Texas case in which the accused ring-leader of an alleged $10 million viatical settlement scheme happened to be on parole from a murder-for-hire conviction. Although no one was found to have been murdered as a way of expediting the pay-off to investors, it got me to wondering . . . what if?

Which brings me back to the Russian Mafiya. By now, you can probably see where this is going. At least you think you know where this is going. I promise you'll be surprised when you read Beyond Suspicion.

BEYOND SUSPICION: HarperCollins Publishers: September 2002 Behind the Writing of the Novel: Copyright 2002 James Grippando

 

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