cover image The Pardon

The Pardon

James Grippando. HarperCollins Publishers, $22 (311pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017782-9

Matters like realism and credibility take a back seat to high concept in this brisk but far-fetched first novel by a Florida attorney who poses a nifty question: What if a governor who favors the death penalty faced the prospect of allowing his own son to be executed for murder? In 1992, Florida governor Harold Swyteck allowed convicted killer Raul Fernandez to die in the electric chair despite the pleadings of his lawyer son, Jack, who claimed to have confidential proof that Fernandez was innocent. Now, in 1994, the man who supposedly gave Jack that proof-the man who claims to have committed the murder that was pinned on Fernandez-is blackmailing the governor by threatening to reveal that he let an innocent man die. Meanwhile, Jack has gotten an admitted killer, Eddie Goss, free on a technicality; when Goss is killed and all the evidence points to Jack as the murderer, the governor faces his dilemma: Will he sign his son's death warrant if he's convicted-or will he try to save him? Grippando's fast pacing obscures much plot manipulation and heavy-handed characterization. The novel's premise is compelling, but the structural holes sink this narrative. 75,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; audio rights to HarperAudio; Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild alternates; author tour. (Sept.)