By James Grippando
Through his 21 novels, James Grippando has found new ways of telling stories about the intricacies of Florida, drawing inspiration from real events.
In “Black Horizon,” Grippando explores a disaster that has affected Florida in the past ― a devastating oil spill ― and creates an intriguing political spin by showing how this could affect relations between the United States and Cuba. But Grippando also ladles a love story and the ever-reliable theme of greed to give his 11th Jack Swyteck novel an even more solid plot.
Jack, a Miami criminal defense attorney, and his new wife, FBI agent Andie Henning, are enjoying their relaxing, romantic honeymoon in Key West. But the holiday ends when Andie is called back to Washington after the explosion of Scarborough 8, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The FBI fears the massive crude oil spill may be the result of sabotage by terrorists. Jack becomes involved when he represents Bianca Lopez, who was the widow of a Cuban national killed in the rig. The Chinese-Russian-Cuban consortium that owns Scarborough 8 is fighting the wrongful-death suit, claiming that the couple’s marriage did not exist.
The couple’s relationship is fraught with political overtones because she emigrated to the United States but her husband stayed in Cuba. But Jack is caught up in a political web when he is kidnapped in Cuba, where he has gone to find legal documents proving the marriage valid.
Grippando has become a master at taking “ripped from the headlines” events ― in this case the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill ― and turning them into involving thrillers that, somehow, do not succumb to sensationalism. Grippando achieves this by continuing to focus on characters, especially showing new sides of Jack. Crisp dialogue and an insider’s view of Florida elevate “Black Horizon,” as do the evocative scenes set in Cuba.