‘When Darkness Falls’ crackles with suspense


“When Darkness Falls,” by James Grippando; HarperCollins; $24.95.

A mainstay of author James Grippando’s novels is his ability to weave timely topics into solid thrillers without resorting to plots that are overburdened with issues. The result: Grippando’s mysteries get the message across more forcefully while keeping the reader on the edge of the seat.

That’s especially true of his 11th thriller, “When Darkness Falls.” Besides a solid plot wrapped around a tense hostage situation, the author pulls in a tale about the “Disappeared,” the more than 30,000 Argentines who vanished between 1975 and 1983 because of their opposition to the military regime. That Grippando doesn’t hinge the entire plot on this event makes the focus even more powerful.

“When Darkness Falls” is Grippando’s sixth outing with criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck. Here, he represents a homeless man who calls himself Falcon. The man has a fixation on the mayor’s daughter, Alicia Mendoza, a Coral Gables, Fla., cop whom he insists on talking to. When events take a turn, Falcon takes several hostages, including Jack’s best friend, in a tense standoff that takes up most of the novel.

Grippando started his writing career with Jack Swyteck in “The Pardon” (1994) and his exploration of this character and Jack’s best friend, Theo Knight, have formed the foundation of some of the author’s most compelling novels. Grippando continues to show new sides of these two as well as skillfully introduce new fully fleshed-out characters. A recently blinded police negotiator Vincent Paulo is a strong presence who we hope will return.

The author shows the dichotomy of Falcon’s psyche, making the reader both sympathize and despise this complex character.