The Informantby James Grippando
Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Tribune reporter Mike Posten has covered thousands of horrible
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A serial killer has struck again. FBI Special Agent Victoria Santos is tracking the string of gruesome murders from New York to San Francisco, from Miami to Oregon. Her only lead: the distinct savagery of the slayings, "signed" with the killer's own brand of barbarism.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Tribune reporter Mike Posten has covered thousands of horrible crimes in his rough-and-tumble career. But nothing has prepared him for an anonymous call from a mysterious stranger who claims his mind works so much like the killer's that he can actually predict the next attack -- time, place, victim. The only catch is, the man wants money. A lot of it.
It could be the scoop of Mike's career -- or the end of it. Haunted by a failing marriage and a back-stabbing rival in the Tribune newsroom, Mike isn't sure if the caller is the killer or the evil genius he claims to be, and he wonders which would be worse. He has never paid for a story, and he doesn't intend to start now -- unless it could help stop a killer. When the caller's grisly "predictions" prove true, Mike secretly contacts the FBI and Victoria targets his informant as the breakthrough she's been waiting for. At once a strange alliance and a classic struggle between the FBI and the press, Mike and Victoria form the front line of attack, with Mike as the go-between for the informant and the Feds: "checkbook journalism" at its deadliest.
Somebody's decided to start selling Mike Posten, a Pulitzer alumnus at the Miami Tribune, the hottest crime tips of the decade: sending him the names of each new target of a cunning killer who's cutting out his victims' tonguesand sending them after they're already dead but before the bodies are discovered. It's the killer himself, insist the FBI when Mike asks if they'll bankroll his stories. But task force coordinator Victoria Santos doesn't think so, and like Mike, she sticks her neck way, way out in support of her theory that the killer's being dogged by a second man, an informant who knows his modus operandi so well that he can predict what he'll do next. Bucking the reservations the Tribuneand the FBIhave about spending big bucks for tips that may be coming straight from the killer and financing his getaway, Mike and Victoria work to piece together profiles of both the men they think they're looking for, even though the killer's profile, which combines hallmarks of both organized and disorganized serial killers, leaves them wondering if he might be a schizoid tattling on himself after all. So far, so edgyuntil Grippando, halfway through, lifts the veil to expose the identities of both killer and informant, the relationship between them, and the motive for the ghoulish crimes, and the story turns into a cat-and-mouse game with a cat who's a lot less scary (and convincing) once he's been explained away, and a new series of threats (breaking up Mike's fragile family for good, taking an ocean liner hostage) that scream TV movie.
Even the flatter second half, once Grippando's shown all his cards, is enough to keep you tearing through the pagesbut now you already know what you're going to find.
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Gerty Kincaid expected the worst.
An Arctic front was dipping through Dixie, and southeast Georgia was bracing for its first blast of winter. By nightfall, said the weatherman, it might even snow. After seventy-eight years, Gerty wasn't tickled by the novelty. In the small town of Hainesville, January at its worst meant ice storms and downed power lines--not fluffy white snowfalls and a winter wonderland. There was no sophisticated meteorological explanation for it. That was just the way it was--and always would be.
That simple logic was like the town creed.
Life in Hainesville, they said, was as predictable as the sweet smell of azaleas in the spring and the April crop of onions. Vidalia onions, to be exact. They were the town's bona fide claim to fame, but it wasn't very southern to brag, so nobody claimed it. Hainesville was a one-stoplight town, population 532. It relied on one schoolhouse, a white clapboard rectangle serving kindergarten through twelfth grade. The First Baptist Church was the sole house of worship, built of bricks from the red Georgia clay. And there was just one doctor, a semiretired family physician who'd been honored with a parade, marching band, and key to the city when she moved down from Atlanta.
By early Friday evening a wind sock full of bitter northeasterlies was blowing through town. The smell of charred oak wafted from the chimneys of old homes with no electric heaters. Gerty was bundled up warmly in her beige trench coat and plaid wool scarf as she hurried up the curved sidewalk that led to her front door. Covered by a thin glaze of icy rain, the front steps and pathway glistened in the dim yellow porch light. It was slick and treacherous.She could have walked it blindfolded, however, having lived in the same old two-story, white frame house for nearly fifty years, the last ten alone as a widow.
She tucked her shopping bag under her arm while digging through her purse for the keys. The brass ring was enormous, cluttered with house keys, car keys, keys to an old shed that had burned down in '67--even keys to luggage she'd never actually locked. She kept them all on one ring, having promised herself that the day she could no longer tell the good ones from the bad would be the day she'd accept her daughter's persistent invitation to move in with her.
"Ah, fiddlesticks," she muttered. Her fingers ached with arthritis, and the tattered knit gloves only made it harder to grab the right key. The key ring jingled and jangled like a wind chime in her shaky hand. Finally she got it. With a quick shove the door opened, and she rushed inside to keep out the cold.
An eerie yellow glow from the porch streamed through the slatted windows on the door, lighting the needlepoint words of wisdom in the gold-leaf frame hanging on the wall. Gerty had designed and stitched it herself. There But For the Grace of God Go I, it read. Southern For "Better You Than Me."
She flipped the light switch in the foyer, but the expected illumination didn't come. Must be a power shortage. But then she realized the porch light was still burning outside the door. Maybe a blown fuse?
It took a minute to hang her coat and scarf neatly on the rack. Then she fumbled for her key again in the dim yellow light. She needed the key to secure the lock. Her granddaughter, now a big-city girl with self-proclaimed street smarts, had come down from Richmond over Thanksgiving and replaced the old-fashioned chain and dead bolt with new high-security locks, the kind that required a key to get out of your own house. The idea was to keep burglars from reaching through the window from the outside to unlock the door on the inside.
It seemed like overkill to Gerty. What was next, a blood test to sit down at your own dinner table? She knew it defeated the purpose, but she'd developed the habit of letting herself in, then leaving her keys right in the lock on the front door.
As her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, she started across the living room. The curved back of the Victorian sofa was visible in the shadows. A shaft of light from the porch reflected off the oak-framed mirror above the fireplace. The century-old floorboards creaked beneath her feet.
"General Lee?" she called out. "Where are you, baby?"
Her voice had an apologetic tone. She'd promised to be home
no later than five o'clock, and the general was one kitty who didn't like his dinner late.
"Come on, sweety. Mommy's sorry she's late."
She stopped at the table by the staircase to try the crystal lamp. It didn't light. The whole living room appeared to be without power. Strangely, though, the time displayed on the digital clock on the table seemed about right, and she watched one of the digits fall, which confirmed it was working. Seven-forty-two p.m.
She started down the narrow hall toward the kitchen. Halfway down, she was completely beyond the outer limits of the faint glow from the porch. She'd reached total darkness. With each additional step she relied more on memory than on vision. She slid her hand across the wall to feel for the light switch. A quick flip of the button brought an erratic flicker from the fluorescent bulb over the stove, giving her a start. Her pulse quickened, but the calm returned as she scanned the familiar old kitchen.
"General--" she started to say, then stopped. The bright crimson droplet on the floor caught her attention. At first she thought it might be coffee she'd spilled earlier in the day, but it seemed thicker and redder. She took a paper towel from the countertop and bent down to dab it. She blinked at the way it smeared across the linoleum.
She rose slowly and noticed a whole string of deep red drops, each about a foot or two apart, reaching from one end of the kitchen to the other. Most of them were small, but some were as big as quarters. The trail ended at the back door, which had a pass-through in the lower half that allowed her pets to come and go.
"General Lee?" Her voice shook with concern. Had he cut his paw in the darkness? she wondered. Was he hemorrhaging? Maybe he crawled outside to die in the weeds. In a panic she rushed for the back door, but it was locked and there was no key in the dead bolt.
"Damn these new locks!"
She raced from the kitchen, retracing her steps through the pitch-dark hallway and into the living room. Her breath was short and her heart was pounding as she neared the front door and reached for the keys in the lock, right where she'd left them. She froze.
The keys weren't there.
She stared in disbelief. Her hands began to shake, but she was standing completely still when the floorboard creaked directly behind her.
She wheeled and gasped, looking straight into the eyes of a dark silhouette--a huge man dressed from head to foot in some kind of black hood and tight-fitting bodysuit. She was about to scream, but his hand jerked forward and grasped her throat. His quickness stunned her. The strength of his grip made her knees buckle.
"I can't . . . breathe." Her voice broke as she fought for air.
"I don't . . . care." He used the same broken cadence, mocking her struggle.
As his grip tightened, the knife appeared. It hung before her eyes with the flat side toward her, and she saw her own terror in the eerie reflection. She could hear his voice, even make out a few words. He was talking at her, demanding something. The intense fear and pain made it all seem jumbled. The room began to blur. But the voice grew louder. The Informant. Copyright © by James Grippando. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
James Grippando is a New York Times bestselling author of twenty-four novels. He was a trial lawyer for twelve years before the publication of his first novel in 1994 (The Pardon), and now serves as counsel at Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP. He lives in South Florida with his wife, three children, two cats, and a golden retriever named Max who has no idea that he’s a dog.
- Coral Gables, Florida
- Date of Birth:
- January 27, 1958
- Place of Birth:
- Waukegan, Illinois
- B.A. with High Honors, University of Florida, 1980; J.D. with Honors, University of Florida, 1982
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The Informant, the third James Grippando book that I have read, is a high-class thriller. After reading The Pardon, and Beyond Suspicion (both recommended) I wasn¿t sure what I¿d think of a non-Jack Swyteck Grippando novel. I was pleasantly surprised. In The Informant Mr. Grippando has woven together an interesting story about three different people. Victoria Santos is a FBI agent tracking a serial killer, Mike Poston is a top notch reporter at a Miami newspaper, and the informant is a mysterious person with an uncanny ability to predict where the killer will strike next. I love the characters that Grippando creates. There always seems to one that has a past that works its way into the plot by stories end. This book is no exception. Although I did figure out the ¿twist¿ early in the story, it still was well crafted. The story is fast paced, intriguing, and at times gruesome. The final 100 pages were non-stop action. It¿s a fun read that will keep you up all hours of the night. I recommend The Informant!
This is my second book I have read after UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS. Should have read THE INFORMANT first because both books featured the same character (the second one was a cameo appearance). But, it doesn't matter which order because it didn't affect much of anything. THE INFORMANT was well-written! Much better than UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS. I will read THE PARDON (author's first book) next. I will look forward to read Grippando's other books.
Worth a read. Good characters, story.
I purchased this book 3 weeks ago, read it in a few days, and really don't remember it today.
A great murder mystery.
I enjoyed the book from the beginning to the end. Fast paced and suspensful.
Started slow - had trouble keeping track of the story and the characters. About a third of the way, the book really took off. Another great book from a favorite author.
Good read. Recommend.
It has extremely interesting characters and the plot is unusual. I couldn't put it down.
Have read everything he has in print and have been waiting for his next one. One of the best. Surprised he isn't better known.
This is the second book that I have read by James Grippando and it is excellent. It had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn't put it down. I look forward to reading all of James Grippando books.
J.G's The Informant is an outstanding book. Everytime I picked up the book, I could barely put it down. This is a great accomplishment in the genre, very fresh, bringing us back to the ol' days of Silence Of The Lambs.
The oldest review I've seen is the one from 2000 down below! Thats before i was born!