A Death in Live Oak: A Jack Swyteck Novel by James Grippando (Review #2)

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A Death in Live OakBeginning with the finding of a young black man all bound up and floating dead in a river, A Death in Live Oak, takes the reader on an interesting ride through the North Florida area. It covers not only college students and their fraternities but it also is a good look back into history at the things that happened due to racism and its events.

Mark Towson, the president of the white Theta Pi Omega fraternity, is taken in by the police for questioning when the president of the black Alpha Kappa Delta fraternity turned out to be the body that was found in the river.

Supposedly someone texted a message to Jamal Cousin, the dead black student, a few days prior to his being found in the river. The message, “watch yo ass on the float, nigga, strange fruit on the river” was known everywhere as a threat that the person would be found hanging from a tree on the river banks. It was a familiar threat to folks in the area as it was tossed around for many years.

Jack Swytek, a noted defense attorney and son of the former governor of Florida, is called on by his father to fly to Live Oak and meet with Tucker Towson who had been the governor’s deputy chief of staff. Jack immediately begins digging into the case and interviewing Mark Towson. There seems to be quite a bit of evidence against Towson so he is put behind bars on suspicion of murder while the state figures out exactly what evidence they have besides the text message.

However as Jack digs into the case it becomes more and more evident that there is a lot more going on and it always seems to be about who said what, when, and how. Very little hard evidence is brought forth but as Jack finds out there is a whole lot “going on”.

And along with this particular crime suddenly another black member of the fraternity turns up missing but neither this time there is no messages left nor any real ideas as to what happened to him and where is he.

Then Grippando brings up another couple of interesting side stories to go with the Towson case. Jack’s wife who though they already have one young daughter decides they should look to adopting a new baby since she appears to be unable to have any more children. Jack is a bit unsure about the whole thing and especially is concerned because his wife works as an undercover FBI agent which is an extremely hazardous job especially for a woman.

The other side story has to do with an older white lady in the community who seems to be rather stuck on going back in her mind to her younger days when she and a young black boy were about to get into some type of relationship which was strictly against the wishes of most people in that time period. How Grippando weaves this into the whole makeup of A Death in Live Oak is very different and interesting.

The entire book is typical Grippando. Very interesting with many side line happenings but very little profanity and no sex. A good book for everyone who enjoys crime stories!

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