‘Most Dangerous Place’ by James Grippando. Harper, 368 pages, $26.99
Coral Gables author James Grippando delivers a heady mix of culture, politics and family issues in his 25th novel, his 13th featuring Miami defense lawyer Jack Swyteck. But the heart of “Most Dangerous Place” is how rape victims are treated — by their families, the police, in courtrooms, on college campuses, in cities and even in their own perceptions of themselves and the crime.
“Most Dangerous Place” takes its title from an FBI statement that the most dangerous place for a woman between ages 20 and 30 is in a relationship with a man. Grippando skillfully weaves this issue into a well-plotted novel that keeps the suspense high and the characters believable.
Jack hasn’t seen his best friend from high school, Keith Ingraham, for years, and is delighted to pick up him, wife Isa Bornelli, and their 5-year-old daughter, Melany, at the airport. The family has been living in Hong Kong, where Keith heads a bank’s wealth management. They returned to Miami so Melany could have surgery.
The family has barely landed when Isa is arrested and charged with murdering the man who raped her when she was at the University of Miami more than a dozen years before. After immediately signing on as Isa’s attorney, Jack runs into problems. Isa had never filed a police report, and had not confided in anyone but her unsympathetic parents about the rape. Not even Keith knew about the assault, which happened long before they had met.
Tension between lawyer and client begins to fray when Isa won’t give a full account of what happened. A surprise visit from Felipe Bornelli, Isa’s estranged father whom she hasn’t seen in more than decade, complicates the situation. The manipulative Felipe considered the rape a disgrace against him and his position as a consul general for Venezuela, and he wants a different attorney than Jack.
Grippando keeps the suspense high, whether Jack is in court or working behind the scenes. The believable legal maneuvers are de rigueur for Grippando, a practicing attorney for more than 30 years. The well-drawn Isa emerges as a complex character, forever blaming herself for the rape and fearful of her father and bad relationships that date back to her college days.
Grippando skillfully handles the complicated attitudes toward sex crimes, making this an intricate part of the plot but never allowing “Most Dangerous Place” to become weighted by the issue. Grippando has delivered a superior body of work during his writing career; his 25th novel continues those high standards.
Meet the author
James Grippando will discuss “Most Dangerous Place” at 7 p.m. April 13 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790.
Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at email@example.com.