When it comes to wrapping a traditional mystery inside an international espionage thriller novel, there is none better than, author H. Terrell Griffin and no better character than retired Florida lawyer and professional beach bum, Matt Royal. In this, the sixth Matt Royal Mystery, the whole cast of unforgettable characters are present. Longboat Key detective, Jennifer Diane (J.D.) Duncan, who Matt is nursing a flame for, Jock Algren the mysterious “government agent” whose agency remains nameless, but Jock has the Presidents direct number. Then there is Logan Hamilton, a fellow Vietnam vet, and Matt’s old First Sergeant, Jimbo Merryman.
Life on Longboat Key, Florida is usually quiet. Fishing, happy hour, drinking and avoiding the mid-day sun in the heart of summer are the usual pass times. But when a young bride groom is shot dead on the beach the morning after his wedding, apparently by a sniper, the lazy days are interrupted. The local police, including J.D. Duncan are puzzled. But then when Matt and Logan are on an evening fishing trip and witness the grounding of a dinner cruise ship and several people are killed all involved wonder if the two events could be connected.
Then when Matt is contacted by an old army buddy, Charles “Chaz” Desmond. Desmond was a medic in Matt’s Ranger platoon, hence the nickname Doc. After Matt was severely wounded and Doc’s best friend was captured and tortured, Doc disappeared into a secret CIA special forces group. He’s now a wealthy business owner and the young groom that was shot on the beach was Doc’s son. Doc' wants to hire Matt to find the killer. when it turns out that two of the people on the cruise ship were knifed and not killed by being thrown overboard during the grounding, and that the Capt. of the ship, who died of a broken neck, was probably killed by a pro, the mystery deepens.
Matt and J.D. Duncan approach the investigation from separate angels, but share information and when an Asian assassin tries to knife Matt on the beach, and two Asian’s were seen on camera boarding the dinner cruise, Matt follows the lead along with his buddies, Logan and Jock, whose government contacts lead them to an aid group in Cambodia and a wealthy heroin exporter.
If you were to compare Griffin’s prose style to a runner, he’d be a marathon runner. The pace is steady and built for the long run. The “course” on the plot leads many places that may or may not lead to the finish line, but logic dictates that each step be explored. Along the way, the reader will have a hard time putting the book down. The dialog is relentless and hardboiled and to the point, the scenery of south Florida comes to life and even if you are reading in Alaska in the dead of winter you’ll find yourself unbuttoning your shirt.
A cross between Jimmy Buffett, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, and Tom Clancy, the characters are funky, but dangerous. The bad guys are a collection of characters that Griffin brings to life in a very real and evil way. And throw in the budding romance between Matt and JD Duncan, and you have all of the elements for a fantastic read and a romp through sandy beaches, funky bars and shady motives.
There is not anything missing in this story, it’s all here and will nail you to your chair and have you ordering margaritas and planning a trip to the Keys.
H. Terrell Griffin is another winner for Oceanview Publishing that readers will not want to miss. I want to thank Oceanview and NetGalley for providing the review copy.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved
Article first published as Book Review: Collateral Damage by H. Terrell Griffin on Blogcritics.