The Informant

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
Intriguing . . . Grippando handles this unusual [plot] with ease.
New York Times Book Review
Spectacular effects . . . entertaining. . . . Grippando has done his homework on FBI forensics, criminal profiling and the internal protocol for backstabbing.
Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel
A breathlessly scary, unpredictable thriller.extravagantly plotted..Grippando has produced a work that will deserve its place on bestseller lists.
Naples Daily News (FL)
It's not only titillating, but terrifying'indeed, terrorizing.
Wes Lukowsky
There's a serial killer out there, but the locations are disparate and the victims seemingly unconnected. FBI agent Victoria Santos has developed a psychological profile of the killer, whose attention to detail results in a dearth of clues. Then "Miami Tribune" reporter Mike Posten receives calls from someone who claims he's not the killer, but he thinks so much like him he can predict the killer's next move. The caller will talk for cash, which the FBI supplies. The finale takes place on a cruise ship and pits the killer against Santos and Posten. HarperCollins is investing big money to convince readers that this is another "Silence of the Lambs", but it's not even close. At best, it's a run-of-the-mill thriller populated from Central Casting: the plucky FBI agent, the intrepid reporter, and the killer with a dysfunctional childhood. Still, the author's previous thriller, "The Pardon" (1994), did well, and the publicity blitz will generate some demand. Buy cautiously.
Kirkus Reviews
Grippando grabs for the brass ring in his second galloping Napoleon-of-crime fantasy (The Pardon, 1994)—and brings it about halfway home.

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' tongues—and 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 Tribune—and the FBI—have 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 edgy—until 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 pages—but now you already know what you're going to find.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061012204
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/1997
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

James Grippando

James Grippando is a New York Times bestselling author. Blood Money is his twentieth novel, the tenth in his acclaimed series featuring Miami criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck. James Grippando was a trial lawyer for twelve years before the publication of his first novel in 1994 (The Pardon). He lives in South Florida with his wife, three children, two cats, and a golden retriever named Max, who has no idea he's a dog.

Biography

Whether standing before the bench in a courtroom or penning one of his bestselling thrillers featuring defense attorney Jack Swyteck, James Grippando has a deep fascination with the law. He practiced as a trial lawyer for twelve years before shifting his career in a more literary direction. However, the decision was not the result of bitter disillusionment. "I actually liked practicing law," he explains on his web site. "I just wished I could do less of it. That may sound like a contradiction, but the problem with being a lawyer is that, if you get caught up in it, eventually you won't know anything about anything except what you happen to be working on at the moment."

As he contemplated leaving the law, Grippando set his sights on becoming a writer, a career shift not as drastic as one might imagine. "A trial lawyer is in many ways a story teller," he said in an essay in Mystery Scene magazine. "Still, I had no idea how to become a novelist... So, I set a couple of ground rules. First, I would do my writing on the sly, nights and weekends, while continuing to bill my obligatory two thousand hours a year. Second -- and this was by far the most important rule -- I was determined to keep it fun."

Both Grippando's legal expertise and his determination to "keep it fun" were readily apparent in his 1994 debut, The Pardon, a taut thriller that introduced Jack Swyteck, a brash young Miami criminal defense attorney who successfully defends an admitted killer -- only to find himself framed for his defendant's murder. Called "a bona fide blockbuster" by the Boston Herald, this well-plotted first novel marked Grippando as a writer to watch.

Despite the popularity of The Pardon, Grippando would not return Jack Swyteck to active duty for eight more years. His second novel, written while he was still practicing law, was a fast-paced crime thriller called The Informant. Shortly after it was published in 1996, he left his practice for full-time writing and published a string of well received stand-alones, including The Abduction, Under Cover of Darkness, and A King's Ransom.

Then, in 2002, Grippando revived Jack Swyteck, placing him at the center of Beyond Suspicion, a gripping courtroom drama involving an insurance scam and the Russian Mafia. Readers reacted so joyfully to Swyteck's return that the author has -- with very few exceptions -- kept attention focused on his beloved series protagonist. As the review journal Booklist put it : "Grippando, whose best thriller have been full of imagination and out-of-left-field surprises, looks like he's found a winner in the Swyteck series."

Good To Know

When he was a lawyer, one of Grippando's most prominent cases found him defending a group of chicken farmers against, according to his essay in Mystery Scene magazine, "the largest privately-held corporation in the world." The Wall Street Journal deemed the case "the catalyst for change in the $15 billion a year poultry industry."

Before becoming a writer, Grippando was on the fast track to becoming a partner at Steel Hector & Davis, the Miami law firm at which former Attorney General Janet Reno began her career.

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Grippando:

"In this world of revolving doors, I'm what you might call a professional anomaly. I've had the same publisher (HarperCollins) and agent (Richard Pine, along with his father Artie until his death) since the start of my career. I've also had the same editor (Carolyn Marino) since my second novel. I treasure these relationships. It is because of them that I am able to do what I love for a living."

"My first published novel was actually inspired by a near arrest in a case of total mistaken identity. One night in October 1992, tired of staring at a blank computer screen, I went for a walk before going to bed. I got about three blocks from my house when, seemingly out of nowhere, a police car pulled up onto the grassy part of the curb in front of me. A cop jumped out and demanded to know where I was going. I told him that I was just out for a walk, that I lived in the neighborhood. He didn't seem to believe me. "There's been a report of a peeping Tom," he said. "I need to check this out." I stood helplessly beside the squad car and listened as the officer called in on his radio for a description of the prowler."Under six feet tall," I heard the dispatcher say, "early to mid-thirties, brown hair, brown eyes, wearing blue shorts and a white t shirt." I panicked inside. I was completely innocent, but it was exactly me! "And a mustache," the dispatcher finally added. I sighed with relief. I had no mustache. The cop let me go.

But as I walked home, I could only think of how close I'd come to disaster. Even though I was innocent, my arrest would have been a media event, and forever I would have been labeled as "the peeping Tom lawyer." It was almost 2 a.m. by the time I returned home, but I decided that I needed to write about this. I took the feeling of being wrongly accused to the most dramatic extreme I could think of. I wrote about a man hours away from execution for a crime he may not have committed. What I wrote that night became the opening scene of The Pardon."

"My first editor on everything I write is my wife, Tiffany, who was an English Lit major."

"I can't underestimate the impact Miami -- the city in which I live -- has had on my writing. Miami evokes all the right buzz words -- smart and sexy, young and beautiful -- but it also has a self-destructive quality that triggers the kind of fascination we have with a reckless youth. It is blessed with natural beauty, but it's threatened by developers. It has the gift of cultural diversity, but is plagued by ethnic tension. Its nightlife is unrivaled, but the threat of violence is never far enough away. There's glitz, there's money, there's the see-and-be-seen -- and then there are neighborhoods that seem straight out of the third world. You often hear it said that truth is stranger than fiction, and nowhere is that more true than in south Florida. Where else could the United States Attorney lose his job after losing a big case, getting drunk, and biting a stripper? But it's where I live, it's where I practiced law, and it will always be an inspiration to my writing.

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    1. Hometown:
      Coral Gables, Florida
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 27, 1958
    2. Place of Birth:
      Waukegan, Illinois
    1. Education:
      B.A. with High Honors, University of Florida, 1980; J.D. with Honors, University of Florida, 1982
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 17, 2012

    Good read. Recommend.

    Good read. Recommend.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2009

    This book is different from Grappandos others.

    It has extremely interesting characters and the plot is unusual. I couldn't put it down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2005

    Just Waiting for More from this author

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2003

    Another Grippando Winner

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2002

    Excellent read!

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2001

    An Excellent Book

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2000

    MUST READ!!!

    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.

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    Posted July 28, 2010

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