New York Times Bestselling Author

Under Cover of Darkness

Under Cover of Darkness

"Powerful ... Grippando wins you over."
- Chicago Tribune

Gus Wheatley thinks he's found success. Money, power, prestige. It all comes with the territory for the youngest lawyer ever to grab the helm of Seattle's most prominent law firm. Nothing can interfere with his meteoric rise to the top—until his wife vanishes. Beth dropped off their six-year-old daughter at the youth center one afternoon, and no one has seen her since.

Her disappearance comes just as FBI profilers are called in to examine a bizarre and emerging pattern of brutal serial murders that rocks Seattle. "Bookend killings" the FBI dubs them. The killer seems to be striking his victims in pairs. First two men, then two women. The victims are unrelated, yet within each pairing, the one mirrors the other in chilling detail. 

But this is just the beginning of the nightmare for Gus. Soon, Seattle police fashion a theory that leaves two horrifying possibilities: either Beth is the killer's latest victim… or she is his willing accomplice. 

As the gruesome murders continue, and with Beth's whereabouts still unknown, Gus draws closer to his daughter, a precocious and exceptionally smart six year old. The more he learns about the special relationship his wife and daughter shared, the less willing he is to accept the idea that Beth would ever ally herself with a cold blooded killer. Still, it's clear that he and Beth have grown very far apart. 

Slowly, Gus begins to unravel the shocking truth about the woman he thought he knew. Beth may be alive. She may or may not be innocent. She may have come up against something far more evil than just a serial killer. And for Gus and his family, that evil is far too close to

Critical Praise

"A real gripper from the eerie opening to the catastrophic denouement."

"A smart, straightforward, and -- yes, the pun is unavoidable-gripping thriller."
- Booklist

"An intriguing mystery . . . a shocking and utterly unpredictable ending . . . engrossing on several levels . . . the perfect beach read."
- January Magazine

"Ingeniously entertaining."
- Kirkus

"A chiller full of suspense."
- The Daily Oklahoman


What's Under Cover of Darkness about?

I recently spoke to a group of middle school children about being a writer, and one child asked "What is Under Cover of Darkness about?" I didn't want to get into a discussion of serial killers with children of tender years, but I quickly realized that the story isn't about murder. "It's about relationships," I answered. "It's about a father who realizes how much he loves his wife and daughter." That really is what drives Under Cover of Darkness. "[t]he most successful component of this story is Gus Wheatley's growing awareness of his emotional separation from his family," said Publishers Weekly.

It's difficult to pinpoint the moment of inspiration for this story. It came to me over time. I stopped practicing law in 1996, and many of my former colleagues have commented how lucky I am to be able to work at home and spend so much time with my kids. I do feel fortunate that way, but I wanted to write about a man who isn't as lucky. Gus Wheatley is so wrapped up in his career that he hardly even knew his six year old daughter. That it took his own wife's sudden disappearance to make him realize how little he knew about her and their daughter is both the tragedy and the drama that sustains the story.

 UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS: HarperCollins Publishers: May 2001 Behind the Writing of the Novel: Copyright 2000 James Grippando

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