cover image Under Cover of Darkness

Under Cover of Darkness

James Grippando, Author HarperCollins $25 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-019240-2

A workaholic attorney is forced to examine his priorities when his wife disappears amid a spree of serial killings in the Pacific Northwest. Grippando's fifth thriller (The Pardon; Found Money) springs energetically from the gate, creating tension and pace before a few unbelievable plot twists cause it to lose traction. Attorney Gus Wheatley, general partner of one of Seattle's biggest and most prestigious law firms, is interrupted from his busy schedule by a call from his daughter's dance instructor: his wife, Beth, failed to pick up six-year-old Morgan after class. At first merely annoyed, he next assumes his wife is having an affair (they have been experiencing marital problems) but soon calls police when he realizes Beth has disappeared without a trace. Ambitious FBI agent Andrea ""Andie"" Henning believes Beth may have fallen victim to a serial killer. In the days following her disappearance, Gus is stunned to learn that his wife suffered from bulimia and kleptomania, conditions pointing to extremely low self-esteem. Her emotional condition and other cluesDstrange phone calls, a tip from a prison inmateDeventually tempt investigators with another theory: Beth may have joined a local cult that includes murder among its group activities. The most successful component of this story is Gus Wheatley's growing awareness of his emotional separation from his family. Former trial lawyer Grippando displays expertise in police and legal procedures, but the connection between the killings and the cult strains credulity. Several key characters are not drawn convincingly, and the finale is more of an ambush than a surprise. (July)