Click here to read reviewer Steven Rosen's take on Blood Money.
It’s pretty obvious what Grippando is doing with this novel, but using a Casey Anthony-type case for his setup is a bit off-putting. The Anthony case featured one of the more distasteful trials in recent years, probably more than the OJ Simpson case, considering the age of the victim, though it's bad taste to compare one murder to another. But this author isn't concerned with taste, throwing everything into his stew: paparazzi, a tabloid-like news station featuring questionable characters, and a Nancy Grace-style spokesperson to take pot shots at the acquitted defendant, Sydney Bennett, and her attorney, Jack Swyteck, in Miami. The trial is sensational, the crowd ready for blood, news personality Faith Corso whipping public opinion to a boiling point and garnering ratings for the station.Grippando is back with another Swyteck-based novel that brings together fiction and the realities of our everyday world. This one is based on the attempted murder of a woman from Oklahoma who had the sorry misfortune of being mistaken for that monstrosity of a human being, Casey Anthony.
When a young woman who looks uncannily like Sydney Bennett is attacked in the crowd waiting for Bennett's release and left in a coma, another layer of scandal erupts, all eyes focused on Swyteck and Sydney. But now Swyteck gets a new client, one with a more compelling case than the ugly murder of a child. The real theme here is the loss of privacy via social media and the speed with which news spreads on the Internet. Literally nothing happens in real time that isn't instantly broadcast over the internet, tragic or not.
Public opinion drives the atmosphere of the trial and its aftermath, a killer inspired by Bennett's notoriety—nothing new here—and anxious to garner fame for himself, one way or another. Between Bennett's trial and a new lawsuit on behalf of the injured girl, Swyteck hops from courtroom to courtroom, manipulated by a corporate lawyer doing a shady boss's dirty business. Swyteck is not ignorant of the circumstances under which he labors but is bound by the rules of the court, regardless of who is behind the legal machinations.
There are lots of extra distractions, random characters and events that don't necessarily further the plot but give Grippando an opportunity to mix in some humor. Unfortunately, the transparency of the plot and the motives behind the activities are too facile, just another push for publicity in a failing company. Exploitative journalism—if you can call it journalism—is a fact of life like social media, insufficient fodder for a tale built on infamy and suggestion. The fact is, Grippando didn't work too hard on his novel. All in all, not a very satisfying mystery; too many issues and its plot leave me wondering why anyone would care.