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Intent to Kill

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Ryan James's promising baseball career was derailed before it even got started when a hit-and-run driver killed his wife Chelsea, leaving Ryan alone to care for their beautiful little girl. Now, three years later, he's a popular sports radio host in Boston, still haunted by a tragic crime that was never solved. But on the anniversary of Chelsea's death, Ryan receives a chilling message from an anonymous tipster: "I know who did it."

The shocking revelation may have come from ...

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Intent to Kill

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Ryan James's promising baseball career was derailed before it even got started when a hit-and-run driver killed his wife Chelsea, leaving Ryan alone to care for their beautiful little girl. Now, three years later, he's a popular sports radio host in Boston, still haunted by a tragic crime that was never solved. But on the anniversary of Chelsea's death, Ryan receives a chilling message from an anonymous tipster: "I know who did it."

The shocking revelation may have come from Chelsea's brother, Babes, a young man suffering from an autism-related disorder, and it sets Ryan on a twisted path toward a shattering truth. Suddenly what really happened that awful night threatens to irreparably alter the lives of Ryan and Babes, and dedicated prosecutor Emma Carlisle, if they can survive the wrath of the powerful . . . and the deadly.

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Editorial Reviews

Madison County Herald
“Intent to Kill’s unique double play of baseball and the unpredictable Babes make Grippando’s newest thriller a hit for the bleachers.”
“An excellent thriller . . . Ryan James is a strong, sympathetic lead, and the supporting cast . . . is uniformly excellent. . . . This guy is really good.”
Romantic Times
“In this stand-alone thriller . . . the well-constructed, suspenseful plot is layered with many ‘What?!’ and ‘Oh my God’ moments. With the reader well and truly hooked, all one can do is hang on until the final reveal.”
National Examiner
“[A] page-turner.”
Lansing Journal (MI)
“A fast-paced, nifty crime novel with many surprising plot twists.”
The Globe and Mail
Intent to Kill is [Grippando’s] best. . . . It’s crisp and fresh and full of action from beginning to end.”
Charleston Post & Courier
“This book has it all: sports, crime, money and romance. . . . It’s a delight.”
Sun Sentinel
“Grippando’s thrillers marry well-drawn characters and realistic action. . . . The story strongly fits into the family thriller genre, epitomized by Harlan Coben.”
Providence Journal-Bulletin
“[A] tight, twisty thriller . . . Hums along like a sizzling fastball thrown straight and sure.”
Kirkus Reviews
In Grippando's limp latest, what looks like unpremeditated vehicular homicide isn't. Twenty-something Chelsea James, exemplary wife and mom, is on her way to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I., to see her husband play what might be his last game as a minor leaguer. Ryan, "six feet three and 220 pounds of athletic ability," is headed for "the Bigs," the smart money says. But Chelsea never gets to the ball park, and Ryan's can't-miss trip to glory gets derailed when a drunk driver rams Chelsea's car, then vanishes. Chelsea's killed, two-year-old Ainsley, strapped securely in her car seat, is bruised, and Ryan's shattered. He so adored his wife that he meant it literally when he said he couldn't live without her. Three years later, Ryan, now co-host of a popular morning sports-talk radio program in Boston, has in fact managed to live without Chelsea, but clearly he's a lesser Ryan. Gone is his baseball career and, with it, his sleep. He's so locked into insomnia that in three years his grief counselor has been unable to pry him loose. And then suddenly, Chelsea's death, the coldest of cold cases, heats back up. Secret agendas, long buried, become manifest; friends turn into enemies; conspiracies emerge. When is vehicular homicide not vehicular homicide? When it's premeditated murder, of course. Unpersuasive plot contrivances and clunky prose add up to a pedestrian effort from a writer who's done better work (Born to Run, 2008, etc.).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062088116
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 497,738
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

James Grippando

James Grippando is a New York Times bestselling author whose novels are enjoyed worldwide in twenty-six languages. Black Horizon is his twentieth novel published by HarperCollins, the eleventh in the acclaimed series featuring Miami attorney Jack Swyteck. He is also the author of Leapholes for young adults. Grippando was a trial lawyer for twelve years before the publication of his first novel in 1994 (The Pardon), and he is now counsel at one of the nation's leading law firms. He lives and writes in South Florida.


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

Intent to Kill

Chapter One

The first thing Ryan found was a hand with part of an arm. He guessed it was the left hand, but it was hard to tell. He spotted the right foot on the other side of the kitchen, on the floor, next to the high chair.

God only knew where the missing eyes and ears were.

Living in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, birthplace of Mr. Potato Head, had its ups and downs. But this working-class city of seventy-two thousand on the Blackstone River was no one-spud wonder. It was also the minor-league home of one of the most storied teams in baseball.

"Hi, Dada," said Ainsley. She was wearing only a diaper and her baseball cap—her daddy's team, of course. The Pawtucket Red Sox—"PawSox"—were the Triple-A minor-league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and twenty-four-year-old Ryan James was their rising star. Ryan put his daughter's partially reconstructed toy aside and gathered up Ainsley in his arms.

"What do you want for breakfast?" asked Ryan, as he put her in the high chair.

"Mama," she said.

"Anything else?"


"Coming right up," said Ryan.

Ainsley had fewer words in her vocabulary than most two-year-olds, and anything that she couldn't say was either a mama or a dada. Ryan didn't want to get Freudian about the whole thing, but he assumed the dada was a banana. He had no idea what the mama was. He selected a ripe one from the bunch, sliced it up for her, and put the pieces on the tray.

"Here you go, gorgeous," he said.

Ainsley ate one bite, then took the biggest piece and threw it right over Ryan's head. It landed infront of the refrigerator, where the real mama had to duck out of the line of fire as she entered the kitchen.

Chelsea sighed and put her hands on her hips. "Ryan, please don't throw food."

"I think you meant Ainsley," he said.


"You said, 'Ryan, please don't throw food.' I swear it wasn't me."

Chelsea looked flummoxed. "Oh, God. I'm already stressed."

"Just wait till we have five of these bambinos-." Chelsea froze.

"Kidding," said Ryan. He wanted only four. Chelsea poured a quick cup of coffee and gulped half of it down. "Why are you so tense?" said Ryan. She coughed on her java, and he immediately regretted the question. As a minor-league player, Ryan made the standard eleven hundred dollars per month plus a twenty-dollar per diem food allowance. It wasn't enough. Chelsea supplemented their income by teaching third-grade English at one of Boston's prestigious private schools. Three nights a week she attended law school classes at Suffolk University in Boston, a four-year program that would earn her a diploma when Ainsley was ready for first grade. If Ryan made it to the majors, she'd keep teaching; if he didn't, she'd start a new career. Either way, money would no longer be such an overriding issue in their future. For now, however, finances were tight, and with her full-time teaching responsibilities, her part-time law studies, and an hour-long commute each way between Pawtucket and Boston, Chelsea was struggling to be the good wife and mother.

Chelsea said, "I have a very important meeting, first thing this morning, with Mrs. Chambers. The last person I want to keep waiting is the head of school."

"You should eat something. It'll settle your nerves."

"No time."

"At least take a dada for the road," he said, holding up another banana.

The Ainsleyism brought a smile.

"Okay," she said. "I'll have a dada."

She went to him and gave him a kiss, and for a brief instant, it seemed to cut the stress. That was the great thing about marrying the love of your life. People sometimes said, "I can't live without you" without a thought, but when Ryan said those words to Chelsea, he was quite literal. Teammates teased him for being whipped, but deep down they envied him.

"Me, me, me!" said Ainsley.

Chelsea gave her a kiss, too.

"Ainsley has speech therapy today at eleven," she said. "Can you pick her up from day care and take her?"

"Sure," Ryan said. "Batting practice doesn't start until three. I'll take her to your mother's afterward."

"And I'll get her from there."

"Then you're coming to the game tonight?"

There was a long pause. Chelsea's schedule hadn't allowed her to see many of Ryan's games this season.

"I have a two-hour criminal law class tonight," she said.

"Honey, it's the last game of the season."

"I know. But the semester has barely started, and I'm already getting into trouble for missing too many classes."

"Don't they let you make up the class work for family commitments? Just this one time?"

"Well, I guess I could call the professor and see what he says."

"So you'll come?"

"I will really, really try."

Ryan took an envelope from the kitchen counter and handed it to her. "I snagged you really great seats."

She hesitated, and Ryan could see that he was adding pressure that she didn't need today. But it truly was the biggest game of the season.

Chelsea looked inside the envelope. "There are only two tickets," she said.

"Yeah. One for you and one for Ainsley."

"What about Babes?"

Ryan paused. What about Babes?

Babes was the nickname for Chelsea's younger brother, Daniel. Twenty-one years old and still living with his parents, he suffered from Asperger's syndrome, an autism-related disorder. He loved baseball and rarely missed a PawSox game. Most of the players were kind to him, but it was a bad practical joke a few years ago that had brought Ryan and Chelsea together. For laughs, one of Ryan's teammates asked Babes if he wanted a chocolate bar, but it was really Ex-Lax. Around the seventh inning, poor Babes suddenly dropped his baseball mitt and cap and went running home from the stands, a grown man with a load in his pants. Ryan got a three-game suspension without pay for breaking the nose of the jackass who'd done it. When Babes's sister came to thank Ryan, the sparks started to fly.

Intent to Kill. 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
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 29, 2009

    Intend to Kill

    Not the stile I'm use to with James Grippando .It did not keep me on the edge the way he usually does.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2014

    A triple

    Good but a little more research should have been done on pawtucket area and the pawsox

    But a good read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2010

    REALLY liked this book!!!

    Read this in 2 days. Right from the start I felt I knew the characters. "A bit over the top" in some areas--- but an enjoyable and fun read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2009

    Great page turner!

    Having read many of Jim Grippando's books, I thought this was among the top! Loved the many twists and turns and the variety of characters. I thought it was creative and Rhode Island/Boston was a perfect setting for a sports based novel.

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  • Posted June 7, 2009

    Another Home Run

    Although some of the plot was more unrealistic than usual in a mystery book; I still gave it 5* because on the whole the book was a great read and certainly plausable that the powerful would go to any lengths to keep their secrets.

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  • Posted March 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    the story line is a gripping thriller

    Twenty-four year old Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Ryan James is heading for the majors in nearby Boston. He is making his last start for the Triple A "PawSox" before leaving Rhode Island for Fenway. His wife Chelsea and their infant daughter Ainsley are coming to watch him pitch. However, behind schedule, an apparent drunk driver crashes into the car Chelsea drives. She dies, but thanks to the child restraining seat in the rear two years old Ainsley lives. The other driver vanishes without a trace.

    Ryan's life shattered that night. Instead of being on the big league mound, almost three years later he co-hosts a morning sports-talk radio show in Boston. Still grieving his loss, he never sleeps while trying to be the best single dad in the world. He remains outraged that the hit and run driver never was caught and his beloved's case is colder than a New England winter. Suddenly on the third anniversary of the day his life ended, an anonymous tip claims "I know who did it." While PPD heats up the James case, Ryan makes a paradigm switch from DUI accident to homicide and believes his autism spectrum disorder brother-in-law Babes is the tipster, but he has vanished. Ryan begins a search for the truth with the help of prosecutor Emma Carlisle.

    Though the conspiracy that Ryan and Emma start to unravel seems over the top of the Green Monster, the story line is a gripping thriller as an increasingly cold case of a deadly vehicular accident turns into premeditated murder. Fans of James Grippando will enjoy the tale, but leave the plausibility index in the dugout.

    Harriet Klausner

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    Posted April 21, 2011

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