Death in Live Oak
by Grippando, James

When the president of a black fraternity is murdered, defense attorney Jack Swyteck navigates a maelstrom of racial uprisings as he investigates the chief suspect.

In Florida, three white university students are accused of lynching an African American student. There is incriminating evidence: a threatening text that was evidently sent from one boy's phone to the victim's shortly before he was murdered. Jack Swyteck, the Florida defense lawyer who's appeared in a string of successful legal thrillers, is asked by his father, the state's former governor, to take the case of the boy who allegedly sent the text. But Jack isn't sure the boy is as innocent as he claims to be. The latest Swyteck novel is as precisely written as its predecessors. Very little time is wasted with unnecessary verbiage; scenes generally get right to the point, and dialogue usually stays on track. This makes for a streamlined, effectively paced story that carries us through to the finale. Those who favor fast-moving legal thrillers will be fine with this one. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Racial tensions come to a murderous boil at the University of Florida, Jack Swyteck's beloved alma mater, in this ripped-from-the-headlines thriller.Soon after Jamal Cousin, the head of the Alpha fraternity, is found hogtied and hanged in a nearby swamp, suspicion falls on Mark Towson, the president of Theta Pi Omega, because of a text message he'd sent Jamal using the N word and concluding: "Strange fruit on the river." Mark swears he never sent the text. He never uses that word, he doesn't know what strange fruit is, and he thinks Billie Holiday, who made the song famous in 1939, is a man. But he can't explain how it was logged in as having originated with his cellphone, and soon the evidence begins to mount that he knew what he was doing and meant to threaten and perhaps kill Jamal. Luckily for Mark, his father, Tucker Towson, is an old friend of Jack Swyteck (Most Dangerous Place, 2017, etc.), who's soon on the case. That's about the only bright spot, though. Mark's mothe r is stricken by a return of her cancer; he's expelled from the university after a hearing that's mishandled at every turn; and his fraternity buddy Baine Robinson, whose phone sent another message to Jamal, turns against him. As Jack, battling to find out what really happened while keeping Mark from getting railroaded, finds that the burden of proof in a college disciplinary matter is a lot lighter than in a court of law, his wife, FBI agent Andie Henning, is asked to go deep undercover with the Aryan National Alliance in a case that's even more explosive. Tackling racism, white supremacists, and a generations-old lynching, the book is admirably heartfelt and humane. But the forces of evil are cartoons, the subplot feels tacked on, and the conclusion is unsatisfying on every level. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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