A young woman finds $200,000 in cash in a cardboard box delivered to her door. A man inherits a fortune from a father who died "penniless." Amy Parkens and Ryan Duffy have never met, but they are about to, as each discovers that found money can be a godsend--or a nightmare.
Amy Parkens is a struggling single mother forced to abandon a career in astronomy for a practical computer job. She feels condemned to long hours, low pay, and no time to spend with her daughter. Then an unmarked package arrives. There's no card, no note, no return address. Someone has simply sent her a small fortune. Amy has no idea who--or why. She only knows her dead-end life has changed forever.
Though she longs to keep the cash, Amy fears a mistake, a setup, or even a possible connection to her mother's mysterious suicide twenty years earlier. She has to find the source. But when she tries to look her gift horse in the mouth, someone snatches the money away--quickly, violently.
Ryan Duffy is a decent, responsible man, a small-town physician from the plains of southeastern Colorado. Like Amy, Ryan has recently found unexpected wealth. His father's estate is worth more than Ryan could ever have imagined--millions more. Truth is, Dad was a hardworking electrician for forty-years. But in his attic, he hid a fortune. The Duffy family has been guarding this secret. Was it extortion, burglary, or some other shocking crime? And now that Ryan has the money, what should he do?
Painful as it is, Ryan is drawn to his father's dark past. Amy, on the same desperate quest for answers, soon crosses Ryan's path. Their search takes them through a labyrinth of deception and blackmail, leading to a man of unfathomable power.
Yet the past is not what it appears. Heinous crimes touched their families years ago. Amy and Ryan must solve a treacherous puzzle to learn why the true victims never came forward, why the real wrongdoers went unpunished, and why certain people would kill to keep their secrets.
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James M. Grippando is a trial lawyer who lives in south Florida. His is the author of The Pardon.
The HarperPaperbacks interview with James Grippando, author of The Informant.
Q: Your latest book, The Informant, deals with a serial killer whose barbaric method of murder is sure to leave your reader speechless. Or should I say tongue-tied? How did you come up with the serial killer's signature of murder?
A: I don1t believe in using violence for shock value. That is to say, I didn1t think of the signature and then build a character around it. I created a character and then developed a signature that suited his complex motivations. John Douglas, the FBI agent who pioneered criminal profiling, often says that to understand the serial killer, you have to look closely at his work. I took that advice to heart in choosing the killer's signature in The Informant.
Q: The descriptions you gave of the FBI and their part in catching the serial killer read with the authenticity of an insider, as says former FBI agent John Douglas. The events that led up to catching the serial killer involved profiler and tactical knowledge. What kind of research did you do for this?
A: I started by reading the leading books on profiling and serial killers. I read everything I could get my hands on. I reviewed FBI training materials -- slides, videotapes, case studies. Once I felt educated, I talked with professionals who actually do this kind of work. One of the more helpful sources was a psychiatrist who examines criminal defendants to determine whether they're competent to stand trial. The most help, however, came from law enforcement personnel, particularly an FBI agent with whom I kept a running dialogue throughout the drafting of the novel.
Q: Nobody likes a snitch. The serial killer takes his dislike of squealers to the extreme. How do you feel about snitches?
A: "Snitch" has such a negative connotation, but it all depends on the person's motivation. Whistleblowers who expose corruption in government or dangers in work areas, for example, are often labeled "Snitches" even though their only motivation is to clear their conscience or to correct an injustice. Others spill their guts only if there is something in it for them -- be it money, a perverse satisfaction in seeing others get in trouble or the chance to go on television talk shows and bask in their fifteen minutes of fame. Those are the ones nobody likes, and I don't like them either.
Q: At the root of this novel is a very moving love story between Mike Posten and his wife Karen. It is incredible how you were able to link two seemingly incongruous things like a serial killer1s impetus for murder and a failing marriage. At the heart of both problems seems to lie the question of trust, and the risk of betrayal. How did you see the role of trust unfold and perform in this novel?
A: The basic question is, who can we trust, why and what are the consequences? Karen sums it all up when she tells Mike, "Only two kinds of people can talk without inhibitions. Strangers or lovers. Everyone in between is just negotiating."
Q: Out of all the characters in your novel, who do you identify with the most, and why?
A: Strangely, I1d have to say Karen Posten, the wife of the male lead, Michael Posten. She agonizes about falling into that no-man's land between strangers and lovers, where there is no such thing as total honesty.
Q: The Informant has many plot twists and turns. The organization and structure seem quite demanding. How do you develop your ideas for your books? Do you find outlines helpful?
A: In the most general sense, I develop ideas by observing events and playing the "what if" game. The trigger for The Informant was the whole notion of "checkbook journalism." Some journalists will pay sources, others think it1s sleazy. I asked myself, "What if a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter could help catch a serial killer only by breaking his own rules and paying an anonymous informant?" All of my writing starts this way, usually with one sentence. Once I have the hook, I expand the idea to a paragraph, then to a page, then to a three page synopsis. Then I put it down for a while. If I still like it when I come back in a week or so, I develop an outline. Outlining for me is absolutely essential. I like a complex plot, but as a reader I hate to be confused. I spent three months on the outline for The Informant before I ever started writing.
Q: Besides your writing career, you have also practiced trial law. In what ways do your law background and experiences help your writing?
A: Being a good trial lawyer means being a good storyteller. I don1t mean that in a negative way. You don1t make things up as a lawyer, but to persuade a jury you have to present the facts in a way that is both compelling and believable. You have to develop a theme, decide which arguments to make and then figure out the best way to make them -- all within the time constraints established by the judge and by the attention span of the jurors. More than anything, having stood in a courtroom before a judge and jury has made me more sensitive to readers. I don1t bore them with digressions. I don1t use two pages when two sentences are enough. And I don1t bill them by the hour.
Q: The hardcover of your new book, The Abduction, is coming out in April of 1998. Can you tease us with a little description of the storyline?
The Abduction is the first thriller about a presidential election in which neither candidate is a white male. It pits a charismatic white woman running against the nation1s most respected black man. A week before the November 2000 election, a child related to one of the candidates is abducted in what only appears to be politically motivated kidnapping. The real motivations run deeper, more personal. Intrigued?
Q: Do you have any advice to give for potential authors who are trying to get published?
A: Perseverance. My first published novel was The Pardon in 1994. I say "published" novel because my actual first novel is an unpublished script sitting on a shelf in my closet. It took me four years to write it, but it didn1t sell. I felt like quitting, but my agent encouraged me to write another. Over the next seven months, I wrote The Pardon. It sold to HarperCollins in two weeks and is now available all over the world in nearly a dozen different languages. Just think if I had given up.
Amy wished she could go back in time. Not way back. It wasn't as if she wanted to sip ouzo with Aristotle or tell Lincoln to duck. Less than a fortnight would suffice. Just far enough to avert the computer nightmare she'd been living.
Amy was the computer information systems director at Bailey, Gaslow & Heinz, the premier law firm in the Rocky Mountains. It was her job to keep confidential information flowing freely and securely between the firm's offices in Boulder, Denver, Salt Lake City, Washington, London, and Moscow. Day in and day out, she had the power to bring two hundred attorneys groveling to their knees. And she had the privilege of hearing them scream. Simultaneously. At her.
As if I created the virus, she thought, thinking of what she wished she had said to one accusatory partner. He was miles behind her now, but she was still thinking about it. Driving alone on the highway was a great place to put things exactly as they should have been.
It had taken almost a week to purge the entire system, working eighteen-hour days, traveling to six different offices. She had everyone up and running in some capacity within the first twenty-four hours, and she ultimately salvaged over 95 percent of the stored data. Still, it wasn't a pleasant experience to have to tell a half-dozen unlucky lawyers that, like Humpty Dumpty, their computers and everything on them were DOA.
It was a little-known fact, but Amy had witnessed it firsthand: Lawyers do cry.
A sudden rattle in the dashboard snagged Amy's attention. Her old Ford pickup truck had plenty of squeaks and pings. Each was different, and she knew them all, like a mother who could sense whether her baby's cry meant feed me, change me, or please get Grandma out of my face. This particular noise was more of a clunk--an easy problem to diagnose, since torrid hot air was suddenly blowing out of the air conditioning vents. Amy switched off the A-C and tried rolling down the window. It jammed. Perfect. Ninety-two degrees outside, her truck was spewing dragon's breath, and the damn window refused to budge. It was an old saw in Colorado that people visited for the winters but moved there for the summers. They obviously didn't mean this.
I'm melting, she thought, borrowing from The Wizard of Oz.
She grabbed the Rocky Mountain News from the floor and fanned herself for relief. The week-old paper marked the day she had sent her daughter off to visit her ex-husband for the week, so that she could devote all her energy to the computer crisis. Six straight days away from Taylor was a new record, one she hoped would never be broken. Even dead tired, she couldn't wait to see her.
Amy was driving an oven on wheels by the time she reached the Clover Leaf Apartments, a boring collection of old two-story red brick buildings. It was a far cry from the cachet Boulder addresses that pushed the average price of a home to more than a quarter-million dollars. The Clover Leaf was government-subsidized housing, an eyesore to anyone but penurious students and the fixed-income elderly. Landscaping was minimal. Baked asphalt was plentiful. Amy had seen warehouse districts with more architectural flair. It was as if the builder had decided that nothing man-made could ever be as beautiful as the jagged mountaintops in the distance, so why bother even trying? Even so, there was a four-year waiting list just to get in.
A jolt from a speed bump launched her to the roof. The truck skidded to a halt in the first available parking space, and Amy jumped out. After a minute or two, the redness in her face faded to pink. She was looking like herself again. Amy wasn't one to flaunt it, but she could easily turn heads. Her ex-husband used to say it was the long legs and full lips. But it was much more than that. Amy gave off a certain energy whenever she moved, whenever she smiled, whenever she looked through those big gray-blue eyes. Her grandmother had always said she had her mother's boundless energy--and Gram would know.
Amy's mother had died tragically twenty years ago, when Amy was just eight. Her father had passed away even earlier. Gram had essentially raised her. She knew Amy; she'd even seen the warning signs in her
ex-husband before Amy had. Four years ago, Amy was a young mother trying to balance a marriage, a newborn, and graduate studies in astronomy. Her daughter and coursework left little time for Ted--meaning too little time to keep an eye on him. He found another woman. After the divorce, she moved in with Gram, who helped with Taylor. Good jobs weren't easy to find in Boulder, a haven for talented and educated young professionals who wanted the quintessential Colorado lifestyle. Amy would have loved to stick with astronomy, but money was tight, and a graduate degree in astronomy wouldn't change that. Even her computer job hadn't changed that. Her paycheck barely covered the basic living expenses for the three of them. Anything left over was stashed away for law school, which was coming in September.
For Amy, a career in law was an economic decision, not an emotional one. She was certain she'd meet plenty of classmates just like her--art historians, English literature majors, and dozens more who had abandoned all hope of finding work in the field they loved.
Amy just wished there were another way.
Amy whirled at the sound of her daughter's voice. She was wearing her favorite pink dress and red tennis shoes. The left half of her very blonde hair was in a pigtail. The other flowed in the breeze, another lost barrette. She peeled down the walkway and leaped into Amy's arms.
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Book Description Harper, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0060182636
Book Description Harper, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1st. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0060182636
Book Description Harper. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0060182636 We guarantee all of our items - customer service and satisfaction are our top priorities. Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Bookseller Inventory # TM-0060182636
Book Description Harper, 1998. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: Single mother Amy Parkens feels trapped by a boring job, low pay, and no time for her young daughter. But that was before $200,000 in cold hard cash arrives in an unmarked box. Desperately needing the money, Amy fears a setup, or a connection to her mother's suicide twenty years earlier. So she sets out to find the source. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0060182636
Book Description Harper, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110060182636
Book Description Book Condition: Brand New. Book Condition: Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 97800601826321.0