Saturday, 27 June 2015 11:20

BY OLINE H. COGDILL

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Most people have heard of the 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK in which criminals made off with an estimated $6 million, which would be around $18 million today.

At the time, it was the largest cash robbery on American soil.

If that sounds familiar then perhaps you saw the 1990 Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas, or read the book Wise Guys, written by the mob informant Henry Hill.

In the 1978 heist, many of those behind the crime didn’t fare well. Their increased spending and bragging didn’t make for a clean getaway.

But that Lufthansa robbery isn’t the only time thieves have targeted an airline.

It also happened at the Miami airport in 2005, a crime that James Grippando, right, uses for inspiration in his 22nd thriller, the enthralling Cash Landing.

In real life, the Miami heist netted $7.8 million for a band of amateur thieves.

According to Grippando’s website, which quotes the FBI’s official website, the real crimes “mastermind,” Karls Monzon, teamed up with his uncle, an ex-con, his cocaine-addicted brother in law, and an insider who worked for Brinks Security who drove one of the armored trucks that regularly shuttled millions of dollars in cash from Miami International Airport to the Federal Reserve Branch just four miles from the airport.

Each week, states Grippando’s website, a 747 brings from the Frankfurt airport to the Miami airport anywhere from $80 million to $100 million in U.S. dollars in the cargo belly. German banks don’t need all those $50- and $100-dollar bills, and much of Miami’s economy runs on cash.

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Just like in Goodfellas, the thieves had only one job to do after the heist—don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t change your routine and don’t start spending money you wouldn’t ordinarily have.

Naturally, that didn’t happen. The Cash Landing thieves started spending money like it was water.

One thief’s addiction to cocaine was only surpassed by his addiction to strippers, for whom he would buy $40,000 Rolexes. And we are not talking about just one watch, but several. As the FBI was closing in on their investigation via wiretap, a rival gang kidnapped one of the thieves. And then it got worse.

The real gang eventually was arrested and are still in prison, as are the kidnappers. As for the money, only about a million dollars was ever recovered.

Using a real event for a piece of fiction can be tricky, but Grippando, long an expert at the involving thriller, pulls it off quite nicely in Cash Landing.

Grippando concentrates on the FBI’s investigation, which includes the newly transferred Special Agent Andie Henning, to piece together the scattered clues. As in real life, there is no honor among thieves in Cash Landing.

The Cash Landing robbery is flawless—no one is hurt, not even a gun is fired. But instead of staying off the radar, some of the gang members immediately begin throwing money around, including buying several strippers uber-expensive watches. The gang members in Cash Landing believe they are smarter than that gang in Goodfellas. Of course, they are not.

In my review of Cash Landing, I said: “Cash Landing’s solid plot is buoyed by Grippando’s strong characters, each of whom has something to hide from the others. Grippando also delivers history lessons along with a tour around Miami, from down-at-the-heels neighborhoods to Lincoln Road in Miami, including a homeless scam that seems to be one of those only in South Florida events.

“Andie plays a major part in Grippando’s recent novels about Miami attorney Jack Swytek. But Cash Landing is set in 2009, before the two met although Swytek plays a pivotal, but small, role at the end,” I added in my review.

Grippando makes the best use of reality as he spins fictional gold with Cash Landing.

Photo: James Grippando; courtesy HarperCollins

Facts Behind Grippando's Latest
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Wednesday, 24 June 2015 21:55

By OLINE H. COGDILL

If you’re a fan of mystery fiction—and of course you are, because you are on this site—then you know that several authors can write about the same city, yet bring a different perspective on that setting.

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As I have said before, the Los Angeles of Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and Denise Hamilton is a different city in each of these authors’ novels.

The characters become so real to us readers that we half-expect them to somehow know each other.

And that has happened before.

Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole have each made uncredited cameos in the other’s novels. Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski once commented on how she admired the organizational skills of Kinsey Millhone, who is making her last appearances as Sue Grafton’s series winds down with X, due out in August.

But in one of the latest twists, a character meets an author.

In Ace Atkins' Robert B. Parker’s Kickback, Boston private detective Spenser gets himself involved in the usual complicated case.

In this fourth outing by Atkins, Spenser agrees to help a single mother whose teenage son—along with other teens from a small town—has been denied a right to counsel and routinely sentenced to a “boot camp” for relatively minor offenses.

Without giving anything away, Spenser makes the evening news and his story is reported by Hank Phillippi Ryan.

This is a natural reference.

In addition to being the award-winning author of the Jane Ryland series, Ryan also is an award-winning television journalist, having won 32 Emmys and 13 Edward R. Murrow awards for her reporting.

In Ryan’s series, Jane Ryland, who makes her latest appearance in Truth Be Told, also is a reporter but she works for a newspaper.

Who knows, maybe Spenser’s story also made the front page of Jane’s newspaper. Atkins doesn't tell us.

Spenser Meets Hank Phillippi Ryan
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Saturday, 20 June 2015 04:05

BY OLINE H. COGDILL

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Despite its flaws, the first season of HBO’s True Detective delivered an intriguing story about detectives, Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), during two periods in their lives. Cohle and Hart were partners in Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division whose last case together changed their lives and forced them down a path from which they have never recovered.

I mention this initial season because what made that first venture work is, for the most part, missing from the second season of True Detective, which begins at 9 p.m. on June 21.

True Detective, written and created by Nic Pizzolatto, is billed as an anthology series, so the story of Cohle and Hart is finished. They are left to find whatever redemption they can find. No more Hart’s cynicism nor Cohle’s propensity for nihilistic monologues on religion, life, and families.

Instead, we have a new set of detectives for this second season—Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), and Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch)—a new location just outside of Los Angeles, and even a criminal/entrepreneur, Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn).

What’s missing in this second season is a story line and characters worth caring about.

True Detective Season 2 features the most depressing group of cops, working on a depressing crime in a depressing area. It makes the first season seem like a rom-com.

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This second season is a soulless story, judging by the first three hour-long episodes offered to critics.

In the second season, three law-enforcement officers and a local mobster are tangled in a bizarre murder that will involve billions of dollars, a land scam, and politics.

Velcoro is a compromised detective in the all-industrial city of Vinci in Los Angeles County; Bezzerides, a Ventura County Sheriff’s detective; and Woodrugh, a war veteran and motorcycle cop for the California Highway Patrol.

The disappearance and murder of a city manager, whose body is discovered by Woodrugh, jump-starts the investigation that will put all three on the same task force.

Among the targets of the investigation is Semyon, a mobster trying to become a high-profile entrepreneur but who is in danger of losing everything.

Semyon is torn between his desire for power as a mobster, his desire to be respected by the community’s upper echelons, and the domesticity that he has found with his wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), who may be the only person on his side. Sometimes your worst self is your best self,” says Semyon.

Each of these cops is, somehow, connected with Semyon, though none of them know the other’s relationship with him.

The second season’s main problem is that it so quickly succumbs to clichés.

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To say that each of the cops has issues is putting it mildly; each also has an affinity for violence that can erupt any second.

Velcoro’s “retribution” on the man who beat and raped his now ex-wife Alicia (Abigail Spencer) did not sit well with her, who sees this as a violence he cannot control. And she is right. Velcoro’s relationship with his young son seems, at first, good, but he is as likely to blow up at the boy as he is to beat a father in front of his own child.

Woodrugh struggles with combat memories and battle scars, a controlling mother (Lolita Davidovich) who often is inappropriate with him, and a secret that is cleverly revealed by episode three.

Bezzerides is a coiled cobra of emotions, sexual and violent, many of which echo back to her father, Elliott (David Morse), a former leader in communal living who now lectures at the Panticapaeum Institute, the last place a missing woman worked as a housekeeper. (Morse is an insightful actor and probably a very nice man, but, come on, with few exceptions he plays a villain. His and McAdams’ scene tells the viewer all you need to know about their father-daughter dynamic.)

And, of course, Semyon also is haunted by an event from his past.

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These characters all toil in the bleakest areas of Los Angeles County where the interstate resembles a ring of hell. The city of Vinci, which started as a vice haven, is now all-industrial and considered to be the worst polluter in the state. With a setting like that, there can be no joy here.

The swamps and fields of rural Louisiana of the first season were never this dreary.

The barren theme is set from the opening song—a purposely chilling rendition of Leonard Cohen saying his song Nevermind. The singer, who appears in a bar where bribes and deals with the devil are made, continues the bleak theme.

What does work in the second season is the terrific cast.

McAdams tamps down her normal girl-next-door persona to nail the role of an angry loner who trusts no one.

Kitsch, best known as the troubled high school football star Tim Riggins on NBC’s Friday Night Lights, shows his depth.

Farrell delivers his usual tormented character and is, also as usual, good-looking yet scruffy. (I always get the feeling that Farrell never takes a good shower and always smells a bit funky.)

With no trace of the glib characters he usually plays, Vaughn brings a nuanced portrayal of a criminal who wants it all—a happy life and violence.

True Detective’s second season will be eight episodes long. Enter at your own risk.


True Detective’s second season debuts at 9 p.m., June 21, on HBO. There will be frequent encores and it will be available on demand, as is the first season.

Photos: Colin Farrell, top, Rachel McAdams, second photo; Taylor Kitsch; Vince Vaughn. Photos courtsey HBO.

"True Detective"'s Second Season Debuts
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