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Book Review: Collateral Damage by H. Terrell Griffin

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When it comes to wrapping a traditional mystery inside an international espionage thriller novel, there is none better than H. Terrell Griffin and no better character than his retired Florida lawyer and professional beach bum Matt Royal.

In this, the sixth Matt Royal Mystery, Collateral Damage, the whole cast of unforgettable characters is present. There’s Longboat Key detective Jennifer Diane (J.D.) Duncan, who Matt is nursing a flame for, and Jock Algren, the mysterious “government agent” whose agency remains nameless, but Jock has the President’s 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 midday sun in the heart of summer are the usual pastimes.

But when a young bridegroom 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 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 who 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 captain 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 angles, but share information and when an Asian assassin tries to knife Matt on the beach, and two Asian men are seen on camera boarding the supper 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 marathoner. 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, 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.

In this 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 who 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.

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About The Dirty Lowdown

I was born in Pomona, California at a very young age. I had a pretty normal childhood…or I was a pretty normal child hood if mom is telling the story. I was a paperboy and washed cars. I was a soda fountain jock-jerk and a manic mechanic but my first real job was as a labor organizer in a maternity ward. Then, because of the misjudgment of a judge I spent nearly 10 years in the service of our country mostly on KP duty. Our country sure turns out a lot of dirty dishes. I am a past master at pots and pans. They eventually recognized my real talent and let me wander around some very unfriendly places carrying a big radio that didn’t work. Along the way I took up the bass guitar, jotting down stories, electronic engineering and earned a degree in advanced criminal activities. I spent most of my adult life, if you can call it that, working in the I.T. industry, which I was particularly suited for since we worked in rooms with no windows. On and off I taught in colleges, universities and reform schools as a student teacher… I like smog, traffic, kinky people, car trouble, noisy neighbors, and crowded seedy bars where I have been known to quote Raymond Chandler as pickup lines. I have always been a voracious reader, everything from the classics, to popular fiction, history to science but I have a special place in my heart for crime fiction, especially hard-boiled detective fiction and noir. I write a book and music review blog for all genres at The Dirty Lowdown. And another dedicated to Crime Fiction and all things Noir called Crimeways. It’s named after the magazine that appeared in the Kenneth Fearing classic, The Big Clock. There I write scholarly reviews of the classic hard boiled, noir and crime fiction books from the 20's through today. Mostly I drool over the salacious pictures on the covers. I also write for Tecnorati/BlogCritics where i am part of a sinister cabal of superior writers.