Audiobook Review: Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando

27 03 2011

Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando (Jack Swyteck, Book 9)

Read by Jonathan Davis

Harper Audio

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thought: Afraid of the Dark is a well done thriller, comfortably narrated by Jonathan Davis, but, sadly, it wasn’t the thriller I was hoping for.

Grade: B

A few years ago I was at a concert listening to one of my favorite musical artists. During the concert, you could see the performer becoming frustrated at all the calls for older songs by members of the audience. At one point, he stopped and looked out at the audience, in a response to yet another call for an older favorite and said, “You guys need to let me grow as an artist.” Now, despite my desire to hear him perform his older material as well, I could understand his frustration. As a performer, he wants to build on his work, not just continue to same old thing. Yet, I also understood the paying audience’s frustration, while we enjoyed the newer stuff, we as long time fans, want to be reminded of why we became fans in the first place. This is the same feeling I had while listening to Afraid of the Dark, the ninth Jack Swyteck legal thriller by James Grippando.

In Afraid of the Dark, Grippando has developed a complicated, yet compelling international conspiracy thriller, dealing with such issues as black detention sites, private militaries, the use of torture, child pornography and the loss of privacy due to computer data mining. What he hasn’t done, is given us the type of legal thriller that fans of the Jack Swyteck series hope for. This is why I am in a tough corner. The plot is detailed and well executed. Yes, there are times where it seems to be overly complicated and at other times goes off in unnecessary tangents, but usually Grippando pulls it all back together before it goes too off track. Yet, we don’t see much of the legal side of this thriller. Swyteck only makes one true court appearance in this whole book, a bail hearing, before a major twist about a third of the way into the book sends it in an unforeseen direction. Even Theo Knight, Swyteck’s, best friend and investigator, is dialed down to a very minor role in this novel, which was another disappointment.  So, my major problem with the novel isn’t that there was anything particularly wrong with the story, it is that, as a fan, it wasn’t what I was hoping for. If you are a fan of novels dealing with vast international conspiracies, shadowy operatives and government cover-ups, then you probably will love Afraid of the Dark. If you are looking for a courtroom thriller, you will be, like I was, disappointed.

Jonathon Davis has narrated most of the more recent Jack Swyteck thrillers, and handles the duty again here. Davis has a strong solid voice and handles these characters well. He will not blow you away as a narrator, but neither will he get in the way of the story. You can tell he is comfortable in the roles of the reoccurring characters of the series, and handles them as you would expect. When the story moves to London, he falters a bit with some of the trickier voices, particularly those of the Somalian characters, and some of his British characters come off as stereotypical, but the problems are not glaring enough to distract you from the story. Afraid of the Dark is a well done thriller, just, sadly, not the thriller I was hoping for.