Book review: Grippando takes on immigration in 15th harrowing thriller

"The Girl in the Glass Box" by James Grippando; Harper (368 pages, $27.99)

Pulling current events into a tense, action-filled plot is a hallmark of the mystery genre. And that's certainly a specialty of Coral Gables, Fla., author James Grippando.

In his 15th novel about Miami attorney Jack Swyteck, Grippando weaves a plot about undocumented immigrants, children separated from their parents, women needing asylum after being sexually assaulted and those who prey on the vulnerable. While "The Girl in the Glass Box" is loaded with issues, Grippando knows how to create a suspenseful plot in which every scene is believable.

Jack is pulled into the case of Julia Rodriguez, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador whose boss at the coffee shop where she works reports her to ICE after she refuses his advances. Although Julia is arrested, her 14-year-old daughter Beatriz manages to escape and take refuge with Julia's sister Cecelia, who is in Miami on a student visa. Jack is up against bureaucracy and immigration policies as he tries get Julia free from detention. But ICE isn't the only problem Julia faces–her gang-member husband, Jorge, has followed her to Miami and wants revenge on her for leaving him. The longer Julia is locked up, the further the intelligent Beatriz sinks into depression.

Grippando sculpts harrowing scenes showing the powerlessness of those in immigration detention. Grippando unflinchingly shows the reality of undocumented immigrants' fear, yet never goes overboard as he makes us care very much about each character.

"The Girl in the Glass Box" marks the 25th anniversary since Grippando began writing thrillers. "The Girl in the Glass Box" is a terrific way to mark this occasion.