Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Cane & Abe by James Grippando - Book Review
Cane & Abe by James Grippando (Harper Collins, 2015, 368 pages, $24.99/10.99) is a disappointing detective novel because Abe Beckham is an unreliable narrator. Not only does Beckham neglect to tell the truth to his boss in the States Attorney's office and to the police, he leaves too many holes in his narrative for the reader in order to try to build suspense in this pretty thinly plotted story set in the law firms and offices of high finance, mob influenced businesses in Miami and the sugar cane fields of the area between Clewiston and the resort cities of the coast. Grippando, who has written more than twenty novels of which this is the first I've read, has written a pretty sloppy book most notable for it's catchy, punny title.
Abe's beautiful wife Samantha dies some time before the book opens, and like many successful young men, he remarries another beauty, Angelina, who he has known from before, perhaps too soon in the grieving process. Samantha has left behind a dependent and damaged older brother, whom Abe has promised he will take care for, leading to conflicts within his new marriage. Meanwhile a series of murders have been taking place that share a pattern suggesting a serial killer disposing of beautiful women...and Angelina disappears after a disagreement over Abe's continued attention and care for his brother-in-law. The coincidence raises questions that Abe can't answer and he comes under suspicion in his own office, where his boss is an ambitious female State's Attorney. This all becomes complicated by the avaricious business practices of a corrupt family which owns large tracts of sugar fields and imports illegal workers from Latin America. So far so good, but Abe is caught in a lie to his boss, which is fine for the plot, but, as the story reveals itself, I discover that he hasn't been completely honest with me, the reader, either. It's all right for an author not to reveal material to the reader, because that's the stuff of cliff hanger chapter endings. It's not all right, however, for him to shade the truth with him for the plot's sake. I need to share in his surprise, hurt, and sense of disaster as things go wrong for him, and he, as first person narrator, never convinces me. Therein lies the weakness of Cane & Abe.
"The first thing you should know about bestselling author James Grippando is that he is no longer clueless—so says his wife, Tiffany, after “A James Grippando Novel” was a clue for #38 Across in the New York Times crossword puzzle. James is the New York Times bestselling author of 22 novels of suspense, including eleven in the popular series featuring Miami criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck. His latest, “Cane and Abe,” a legal thriller set against the backdrop of Florida’s sugarcane industry, has been heralded as “Gone Girl meets Grisham” and “a wild ride through Presumed Innocent territory." His 23rd novel, “Cash Landing” will be released in June 2015. James is also the author of “Leapholes” for young adults. His novels are enjoyed worldwide in 28 languages. He is now Counsel at one of the nation’s leading law firms, where he specializes in entertainment and intellectual property law, representing clients who have won more than 30 Tony Awards. He lives in south Florida with his wife, three children, two cats and a golden retriever named Max who has no idea he’s a dog." (Goodreads Profile) I intend to read another Grippando book to see whether my assessment remains consistent, he's had a weak go of it on this one, or he's just not the right writer for me, any one of which could be possible.