Skip to main content

When Darkness Falls


When Darkness Falls

WHEN DARKNESS FALLS answers the question, "When is a courtroom
thriller not a courtroom thriller?" James Grippando, best known for
his books featuring Miami criminal attorney Jack Swyteck, has
utilized his greatest strength --- strong, memorable
characterization --- to craft a novel involving a defense lawyer
who, interestingly enough, never steps inside the courtroom. This
does not mean that Swyteck morphs into a tough guy of the Spenser
or Mike Hammer mold. Though present throughout the proceedings, he
is hardly the focus of the action. The result is an original work
with elements just familiar enough to be comforting to longtime
fans of the series.

The novel begins with Swyteck being retained to defend an extremely
unusual client. The defendant, known only as "Falcon," is under
arrest for threatening to jump off a Miami bridge. Falcon has no
visible means of support yet is able to pay his $10,000 bail in
cash. There's more where that came from, secreted away in an
offshore bank. This naturally raises the question of why Falcon
lives as he does, sleeping in an abandoned car and dumpster

More important, however, is the reason why Falcon is obsessed with
Alicia Mendoza, the beautiful daughter of the mayor of Miami. Theo,
one of Swyteck's first clients and perhaps his best friend, is
along to help as always. But Theo finds himself in the midst of a
hostage situation when Falcon, in the grip of a schizophrenic
episode, believes that Swyteck has stolen his money and attempts to
retrieve it.

When the dust settles and the smoke clears, Falcon is holding Theo
and an interesting cast of additional players at gunpoint in a
seedy motel room surrounded by police. Falcon's demands are at once
enigmatic and difficult: he wants Swyteck to return his money ---
which Swyteck does not have --- and he'd like to speak to Mendoza.
Ironically, the one man standing between Falcon and a SWAT team is
Vincent Paulo, a hostage negotiator with a unique, if tragic,
history, as well as some emotional involvement with Mendoza.
Falcon's behavior is erratic and unpredictable, yet there are
reasons behind all that he does --- ones that are slowly but surely
revealed to some, but that are already known to others.

Grippando's characterizations are first rate here. Even as Swyteck
is gently pushed into the background, there is a revolving and
evolving cast of characters that readily fills the void. This is a
tale of deceit and treachery that is revealed not by courtroom or
police work, but rather by the inevitable shifting of the sands of
time and conscience. While the hostage crisis winds to a violent
and inevitable conclusion, it begins a chain reaction that has its
origins far from Miami but will reach high into the halls of the

Grippando has a penchant for taking chances with his storytelling,
and it once again pays off in WHEN DARKNESS FALLS. Unforgettable
characters and the immediacy of his storyline combine to make the
book a winner.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

When Darkness Falls
by James Grippando

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060831138
  • ISBN-13: 9780060831134