BOOK REVIEW: BEYOND SUSPICION
Looking to pull a life insurance scam and make a cool million and a half dollars? You'd better hope that the viatical company that buys your policy isn't owned by the Russian Mafiya, then, or you might wind up naked and dead with your wrists slit in the bathtub of a former boyfriend. At least, that's what happens to Jessie Merrill in James Grippando's Jack Swyteck novel, Beyond Suspicion. It's Jack's bathtub that Jessie ends her life in. That's not a good thing to help make one's marriage stronger, as he finds out, and it also tends to put one at the top of the cops' list of who would make the best suspect. Can he clear his name, and that of his former client and current friend Theo Knight, whom he represented as a criminal defense lawyer when Theo was on death row? Even if he can, will his marriage survive, or be a collateral victim to his former girlfriend's death?
When Jack Swyteck takes Jessie's case against the viatical company who bought her life insurance policy in return for giving her a million and a half dollars, and wants her to pay it back, because it turns out she doesn't have the terminal disease ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) that she was diagnosed as having, he does so in good faith, as a favor to her, for a reduced rate. The viatical company wants her to give the money back, because now, instead of having to wait maybe two-five years for her to die and for them to collect the full value of the policy--three million dollars--they may have to wait for decades for her death. Due to the good Doctor Marsh's (her physician's) "misdiagnosis" of lead poisoning for ALS, she now has over a million dollars in an off shore banking account. The viatical company rolled the dice against her and lost.
However, after Jack wins the case for her, he sees her and Dr. Marsh holding hands in the elevator, and confronts her. If he doesn't cooperate with Jessie, and the scam she and Dr. Marsh are involved in, she tells him that she'll make it look as if he knew about it all along. She says:
"The simple truth is, I couldn't have done this without you. You were a key player."
"I didn't have anything to do with this." "No one's going to buy that. Especially when I tell them the truth--that you were in on the deal all the way."
"I can't believe what you're saying." "Believe it. Now watch your step--partner."
The situation for Jack goes steadily downhill from there. Jessie has sent new copies of an old audiotape of them making love to the police, the executor of her will, or PR as they're known in Florida, and to Jessie's wife, Cindy. Somehow, either through suicide, the enraged viatical investors taking revenge, or by some other means, she dies, and Cindy and Jack discover her nude and dead in their bathtub, with her wrists slit. He learns through the PR, Clara, that Jessie had a son by him. ( The son later resurfaces in Grippando's book, Hear No Evil.) Also, Jessie's name isn't the only one that is on her account. The PR informs Jack that his name is also included, and she's skeptical that he claims he didn't know about it. She, the police, and the prosecuting attorney feel that Swyteck has many good reasons for having wanted Jessie dead.
Beyond Suspicion is a first-rate thriller that will remind you of Hitchcock at his best with its many twists and turns. The scenes with the Russian hit man, Yuri, who calls himself "Fate," are some of the most tension-filled and exciting parts of the book. I recommend you get Beyond Suspicion today, and once you're hooked by Grippando's excellent writing and the character of Jack Swyteck, you'll want to get the entire series.
REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB
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