Collateral Damage (Matt Royal Series #6)by H. Terrell Griffin
The quiet beauty of Longboat Key is shattered when a young groom is shot to death on the beach the day after his wedding. His father is an old army buddy of Matt Royal, and Matt tries to soften the anguish of his friend by finding his son's murderer. Matt's search takes on added complexity when there appears to be a link between this murder and three seemingly unrelated murders that occurred on board a dinner cruise on Sarasota Bay the same day. Fortunately for Matt, his old buddies, Logan Hamilton and Jock Algren, show up to cover his back and to help investigate. But this case rekindles haunting events of Matt's past and incites a web of doubt, deception, and even suspicion, among the closest of friends. When Longboat Key detective, Jennifer Diane (J.B.) Duncan joins the investigation, Matt loses a little focus as he drifts toward more than just a professional relationship. But this distraction could cost lives when they encounter a shady and very dangerous cabal .
“Griffin’s mystery, with its mellow beach bum hero, eccentric characters and Florida ambience, will evoke memories of the legendary John D. MacDonald. Griffin need not suffer greatly by the comparison; he has a trim and tidy thriller that in most ways is worthy of the master.” ~San Diego Union-Tribune
"The pace snowballs from a fairly sedentary start to an explosive finish where the final reveal comes with stunning reasoning...The plot is as twisted and tangled as the extension lead at the back of my garage..." ~CrimeSquad
Read an Excerpt
A Matt Royal Mystery
By H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2011 H. Terrell Griffin
All rights reserved.
On the last morning of his life, Jim Desmond woke to the sound of the gentle surf lapping on the beach, pushed by the onshore breeze that barely rippled the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Early light reflected off the water, the angle of the sun hanging over the mainland to the east giving the seascape a flat appearance, as if much of the color had been leeched out of the vivid hues that usually paint the southwest coast of Florida.
Desmond snuggled a little more deeply into the bed, a sheet and light blanket covering his naked body, protecting him from the cold air blowing from the air-conditioning vent in the ceiling. He knew it was already hot out on the beach, the June humidity lying like a damp shroud over the entire island.
A hand slowly reached over him, caressed his chest. He felt breasts snuggle against his back, a long leg cross his. Heard a slight snicker, felt a wet kiss on his shoulder, the warm breath of his wife against his skin. He turned toward her, kissed her smiling face, and began to make love to the woman he'd married the day before on the beach in front of the Hilton.
Later, they lay in the bed, her head on his shoulder, her blonde hair tickling his nose. They were sated for a time, their physical need for each other slaked. Two people on the cusp of the future, a long life of success and children and growing old together stretched before them. Happiness was their due, for they were the children of the baby boomers, the generation that had known tranquility in their world, enjoyed the fruits of their parents' success, gone off to college and joined fraternities and sororities, partied and studied, and moved into the wider world where they expected no less than life as they had always known it.
Jim kissed his bride on the forehead and padded to the shower. He dressed in running shoes, shorts, and a white T-shirt bearing the logo of his alma mater, the University of Georgia. His wife had made coffee in the small coffeemaker provided each room. She poured him some in a Styrofoam cup, and standing nude, smiling, held it out like an offering to the god of love. He sipped the coffee, kissed her chastely on the mouth, and went out the door for his morning jog. She never saw him again.CHAPTER 2
My buddy Logan Hamilton and I were having lunch at Mar Vista, the bayside pub in the Village on the north end of Longboat Key. The year-rounders, those of us who don't go north in the spring and return in the late fall, know better than to sit outside in June. The heat and humidity, while not as bad as August, is brutal. Even the sea breezes that blow across our island don't bring relief. It is just hot air. Logan said it reminded him of trial lawyers, my former profession. I never argue with him when he's right.
We sat at a table next to a wall covered in currency of every kind, much of it American greenbacks. Many of the bills had messages scrawled on them from people who had left them along with their names and the dates of their visit. I wondered what made otherwise sane people tack good money to walls or throw coins into fountains. Like much of the human condition, it was a mystery to me.
Logan and I were planning a fishing trip for that evening. We thought we might have some luck after dark anchored off the north end of the Sister Keys just outside the channel. And if the fish weren't biting, we had beer and a lot of lies to tell. We'd get to Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant before closing and have a drink or two with Debbie the bartender. Maybe a nightcap at Tiny's. Not a bad way to spend a hot evening in Southwest Florida.
I was having the Caesar salad with blackened shrimp and Logan had ordered his usual, deep fried scallops and a Dewar's and water to wash it down. I felt the heat as the door to the parking lot opened behind me. Then, a voice. "Matt Royal, there you are." Cotty Johnson. I turned and saw my eighty-something-year-old neighbor coming toward us. "Hey Logan," she said.
Logan and I stood. Cotty pecked us both on the cheeks. "Join us," I said.
"No, thanks. Shirley Beachum is on her way. We thought we'd see how the vodka stock is doing."
I laughed. "Sit until she gets here."
Cotty took the chair next to Logan, across from me. "I guess you heard about the guy getting shot on the beach this morning."
I hadn't. Cotty knew everything that happened on the island, and often knew it before anybody else. No one ever figured out how she knew so much so quickly.
"Shot?" asked Logan.
"Yes. Apparently a high-powered rifle. The police think the gunman was in one of the condos just south of the Hilton. Got the guy right in the chest. He was dead before he hit the sand."
"Who was he?" I asked. "A local?"
"No. Some guy from Atlanta. Got married yesterday. He and his bride were staying at the Hilton. He went out for a jog early this morning."
"Not really. There were a couple of people on the beach who heard the shot and saw the guy hit the ground, but nobody saw where the shot came from."
"Any leads at all?" Logan asked.
"Not that I've heard. Bill Lester and that new detective J.D. Duncan are still at the Hilton doing whatever it is they do."
Bill Lester was the Longboat Key chief of police and J. D. Duncan was a detective who had recently joined the force after fifteen years with the Miami-Dade Police Department.
I felt another heat blast as the door opened again. Shirley came over to say hello and she and Cotty went to the bar and took seats. By the time they left, all the island gossip would be told and retold. As good a way as any to spend a hot afternoon.
Logan sipped his Scotch. "What do you make of the shooting?"
"No idea. I wonder who the victim was."
"The Chamber of Commerce isn't going to like this. They'll be afraid the publicity will scare the tourists away."
"I don't know. It's not like people regularly get mowed down on our beach."
"You're probably right."
Our conversation turned back to fishing. We put together a plan that mostly involved the question of where to get the beer and bait. We decided on Annie's in the settlement of Cortez across the bay.CHAPTER 3
My home is Longboat Key, Florida. More specifically, Longbeach Village, long called simply the "Village," that takes up the north end of the island. My cottage backs up to the bay, giving me a view that brings real estate sales people to their knees. Tropical flowers are abundant in the yard, and I pay a guy more than I should to keep them blooming or whatever they're supposed to do during any given season.
Longboat Key itself is small, about ten miles long and less than a half-mile wide in most places. It lies off the coast of Southwest Florida, south of Tampa Bay and about half way down the peninsula. Once you leave the south end of the key you cross some bridges, another island and end up in downtown Sarasota. On the north end you'll cross the Longboat Pass Bridge, part of Anna Maria Island, then Cortez Bridge, and find yourself in the city of Bradenton.
The island is my slice of paradise. I'm not old enough for retirement, but I'd been to war as a young man, then college and law school. I'd practiced as a trial lawyer in Orlando for a number of years and despaired of the business that the profession was turning into. I began to drink too much and take myself way too seriously, plowing into the law practice with a single-minded devotion that left little time for the only woman I'd ever loved, my wife, Laura. She finally gave notice that our marriage was over. She moved to Atlanta, remarried and died a few years later.
I gave up, sold everything, and moved to Longboat Key. If I was careful, I had enough to live on for the rest of my life. I'd pretty much achieved my goal of becoming a beach bum, living in a small community with lots of friends and time for fishing, walking the beach, drinking in the salubrious bars that dotted our island. I'm not sure how healthy all that drinking was, but the lifestyle gave me a peace that I'd not been able to achieve in all the years before Longboat.
I stayed in shape, worked out with a martial arts instructor a couple of times a week, ran daily on the beach, and always found time for a round of exercises that kept me young. Or at least younger than if I'd become one of those people whose only daily exercise consists of moving from the TV to the beach, then to a bar and back to the TV.
I'm six feet tall and maintain the same one-hundred-eighty pounds I weighed when I was a soldier. Gray has not yet crept into my hair, and I have what I describe as a ruggedly handsome face. Most folks just laugh at me when I say that. They say that I'm, well, pleasant looking. Soldiers do not think of themselves as pleasant. Tough, rugged, even mean as hell, but never pleasant. Oh well, I am what I am, and I'm reasonably satisfied with that.
Logan and I sat in the cockpit of my boat, fishing lines out over the transom. We were off the main channel a few yards north of the tip end of the Sister Keys that separates part of Sarasota Bay from the north end of Longboat Key. The twin two-hundred-fifty-horsepower Yamaha outboards purred quietly, idling in neutral. My anchor light was on and some illumination slipped from the small cabin. We were easily visible to any boat coming up the channel.
We were drifting slightly in the current as it ran toward Longboat Pass and the Gulf of Mexico. The tide was going out, but in our area of Florida the tidal range is not great and the outgoing tides are gentle. The engines were running in case I had to move quickly to dodge a sandbar or another boat.
It was nearing ten o'clock in the evening. An onshore breeze brought the scent of the Gulf 's brine, a pleasant tinge redolent with the hint of the beauty of the ever-changing water that lapped gently on our beaches. The lights of Dulcimer, a dinner cruise boat owned by a local restaurant reflected off the dark surface of the bay as she made her way slowly north toward home, full of satisfied diners who'd taken the evening dinner cruise. Dulcimer was one hundred-ten-feet-long and twenty-eight feet on the beam. She was big and slow and stately and looked like an old Mississippi River steamboat. She was powered by diesel engines and the paddle wheel at her stern was just for show. She was about two hundred yards south of us, running the narrow channel to the west of the Sister Keys, chugging along at ten knots or so. As she neared, strains of music floated across the water, a pleasant counterpoint to an almost perfect evening.
The channel that runs north and south along the western edge of the Sister Keys doglegs around a sandbar that has pushed out from the lagoon that separates Longboat Key from Jewfish Key. The captain on a northerly course must turn about thirty degrees to the east and then back to the west. We watched as Dulcimer made the turn to the east. She kept coming. No turn back to the west. She was on a collision course with my boat.
I jumped to the helm and pushed the throttles forward, moving swiftly across the bow of the oncoming vessel. I knew there was a sandbar lurking just behind where we'd been fishing, and if the captain didn't get back on course in the next few seconds, he'd be piling up on the bar.
I turned to my left, paralleling the course of the larger boat. The pilot house was dark, but the decks were lighted. I could see people sitting at the tables, walking around with drinks in hand, leaning against the railings of the open upper deck. The music was still playing, an old rendition of "La Vie En Rose." I wasn't sure if it was Edith Piaf singing, but it sounded like her.
As I passed amidships of Dulcimer, she went dark. The lights and the sound quit at the same instant. No lights on the decks, no running lights. Nothing. A ghost ship was slipping by my port side, dark and foreboding. The sounds of surprised guests getting louder as panic set in.
The boat came to a shuddering halt. It had found the sandbar. I heard tables and glassware shifting and breaking. Screams of panic and pain drifted over the water. I'd been reaching for my radio microphone when the lights went out. "Mayday! Mayday! Coast Guard Cortez, Coast Guard Cortez, this is Recess."
The radio jumped to life, a calm female voice at the other end of the ether. "Recess, this is United States Coast Guard Cortez. What is your emergency?"
"This is Recess. I'm at the northern tip of the Sister Keys. The Dulcimer dinner boat just ran hard aground. I can hear screams coming from the passengers. It looks as if several are in the water. I'll try to pick them up."
"I'm sending boats, Recess. Stand by on channel sixteen."
"Recess, standing by sixteen."
I was shining my spotlight on three heads bobbing in the water. I eased Recess toward them, put the engines in idle, and drifted. Logan was at the stern, the transom door open, the ladder down, a boat pole in his hand. He helped bring the waterlogged people aboard, told them to sit down on the cockpit floor. Logan dug into the bag of towels in the cabin and gave one to each of our passengers.
I kept the spotlight moving, but didn't see any more heads. Some of the passengers had apparently gone overboard from the open deck when the boat ran aground. Several of them were standing near the bow, the water up to their knees.
"The Coast Guard is coming," I called to them. "Stay where you are."
Less than ten minutes after my radio call to the Coast Guard, I heard sirens whooping in the distance. I looked to the north and saw two boats, blue lights flashing, racing toward us. The Coast Guard station was only a couple of miles north of our position.
I picked up my microphone. "Coast Guard Cortez, this is Recess."
"Recess, this is United States Coast Guard Cortez."
"Coast Guard, this is Recess. I have three people aboard, no casualties.
I'm standing by near the stern of Dulcimer. I see your boats approaching."
"Roger, Coast Guard."
I turned to the people we'd brought aboard. "What happened?"
"I don't know," said a middle-aged lady, shivering in a towel-draped sundress. "We were on the top deck when the lights went out and the next thing I knew, we were in the water."
The other woman and the man with them murmured agreement.
I watched as the Coast Guard boats pulled alongside Dulcimer. Men in blue uniforms boarded carrying flashlights. I waited, playing with the throttles, keeping Recess in the middle of the channel, awaiting orders.
After a few minutes I heard a motor turn over, the sound coming from Dulcimer. Then the lights came on and music again played over the water. One of the Coasties had gotten the generator working. The music stopped. The gay evening was over. Time for the work to begin; to find out what happened.
I heard a siren and saw a boat coming from the south, blue lights announcing another law enforcement vessel. It was the Longboat Key Police boat. The cop at the helm recognized my boat and pulled alongside.
"What the hell happened, Matt?"
I told him what I'd seen and that I'd picked up the three passengers from the water.
"I've been listening on the radio," he said. "I've got ambulances coming to Moore's. We can offload any injured at the docks there."
"You've got some people in the water up by the bow," I said. "They're going to start getting cold."
"I'll go get them. Why don't you get these folks names and take them to Moore's so the paramedics can take a look."
He went around me and moved slowly into the shallows to pick up the people on the sandbar. I crossed the channel running almost due west, past the southern tip of Jewfish Key and across the lagoon to Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant. I saw a sea of flashing blue lights in the parking lot. I maneuvered into the dock and cut the engines. Logan and I helped our passengers off the boat and turned them over to the paramedics.
"You ready for a drink?" I asked Logan.
I picked up the microphone. "Coast Guard Cortez, this is Recess."
"This is United States Coast Guard Cortez."
"This is Recess. I've dropped my three passengers off at Moore's with the paramedics. I'll be inside in case your people need to talk to me."
"Recess, did you get their names?
I gave them to her, told her my cell phone number, signed off, and headed for the bar.
Excerpted from Collateral Damage by H. Terrell Griffin. Copyright © 2011 H. Terrell Griffin. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
H. Terrell Griffin is the award winning author of ten Matt Royal mysteries set on Florida's Suncoast. Prior to succumbing to his lifelong yen to write, he earned degrees in history and law from Mercer University and was a board certified civil trial lawyer based in Orlando for thirty-eight years. In his youth, Terry served three years in the U.S. Army, much of it as a medic in an Armored Cavalry regiment on the East German border.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Characters to relate to and a fast moving story line.
First time I've read Griffin and now I will read all his Matt Royal novels.....loved the suspense, the characters and the descriptions of Longboat Key and surrounding areas.
I was all set to give COLLATERAL DAMAGE two stars, write my review, and then move on with my life, or in this case the next book. But a little over halfway through the novel something changed for me. The cheesy dialogue suddenly became less cheesy, the checkbox character descriptions suddenly became a bit more vivid and lifelike, and this novel started to actually feel like a decent enough read. Not high quality, award-winning fiction, but still pleasurable in its own right, and I started to enjoy myself a bit. The laid back attitude of Matt Royal certainly fits the Florida setting that takes over much of this novel. And the plot proved a bit more intricate than the loose threads I thought I had been initially handed. Jock Algren reminded me of Sylvester Stallone in full Rambo attire, looking for the next jerkoff to get out of line. Like the novel itself, Matt’s relationship with J.D. Duncan proved to have an additional layer or two. By the end, I had actually reached a level of mild enjoyment. The pages flipped a wee bit easier in the final third than they did over the first two-thirds. I won’t go out of my way to seek out additional Matt Royal mysteries, but I did find some positive elements I hadn’t otherwise expected. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Collateral Damage by H. Terrell Griffin 4 STARS Collateral Damage is a Matt Royal Mystery. It is full of drama,action, mystery. Matt is starting to really like J.D. Longboat's only police detective. Something is going on Longboat killing people. Thier is 4 murders on the same day. The characters are still loyal and strong friendships tying them together. Doc. who served in Vietnam and saved Matt's life comes asking for help in solving his son's murder. Matt starts looking into them and then he is attacked. Logan and Jock start looking into it with him. Matt for being a retired lawyer and now a beach bum sure gets into a lot of trouble. Collateral Damage book discription taken off of Netgalley web site. Description Matt Royal is in trouble and probably in love, but he's not sure. His buddies, Logan Hamilton and Jock Algren, come to his aid and together they try to figure out why a young bridegroom was killed on the beach of their southwest Florida island and what, if anything, that murder has to do with other murders that took place aboard a dinner cruise boat the same day. Fun in the sun becomes a deadly chase when Matt and his friends run into some very bad guys who seem to have no compunction about killing people. Collateral Damage has a bunch of strings that they are having a hard time untangling to find what is really going on. What is Doc. not telling Matt and J.D. It is fast paced story. You don't want to put down till you are through. At least I have not wanted to. This is the 5th Matt Royal story that I have read in the last few days. I think I have missed two of them that I will have to go get them. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review by Netgalley. 12/05/2011 Pub Oceanview Publishing
Matt Royal attracts trouble. No matter what he is doing, the retired lawyer always seems to find himself in intriguing and life-threatening situations. In Collateral Damage, the latest installment in author H. Terrell Griffins series, Matt Royal, once again, finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation and a conspiracy that could date all the way back the Vietnam War. Longboat Key, Florida is a quiet coastal town that sees little excitement outside of the tourist season. When a young groom is shot while running along the beach, the town is shaken. That same evening, while fishing with his good friend Logan, Matt witnesses strange events on a dinner cruise boat, sailing by them, that leads to two other deaths. When he receives an unexpected contact from an old war buddy, whose son happened to be the young murdered groom, Matt promises to help investigates the murder, and searches for a connection between the shooting and the mysterious murders aboard the cruise. As in the previous novel, the supporting characters help to keep the plot moving. Matt's best friend, Jock Algren, works for a secretive government agency that gives him practically unlimited resources to assist in the investigation. This James Bond like character, while highly unbelievable, works well within the world of the novel, and allows for an easy way for Matt to have some credibility as an investigator. The love interest, Longboat P.D. Detective J.D. Duncan, is written with a subtle touch, allowing the budding relationship to simmer throughout the novel, without falling into the stereotypes of most thriller love elements. Griffin's love for the place and people of Florida permeates the novel, providing the fictional world with some much-needed reality. While the plot becomes a bit hard to follow at times, the story resolved nicely. This novel is a fun, escapist type read, that is sure to provide fans of mystery thriller novels with a great time.
Initially, I was a bit concerned because this is the 6th book in the Matt Royal series and I have not read any of the previous adventures but that will be remedied, most definitely. However, it does well as a stand alone mystery with just a few references to previous adventures that don't seem to effect the story other than character definition.
I've been reading a lot of young adult books lately so this one was a bit of a reprieve from that. I love my legal and police mysteries and this one did not disappoint. Very fast paced intriguing plot that keeps you hooked throughout the book. I loved the scenery/backdrop of the story also. My husband is from Florida and talks about it all the time and we are actually moving there next year. So I love the descriptions of the place. Overall a very good mystery/thriller that I would definitely recommend!
Reading this book is a fun adventure. I have read all of H. Terrell Griffin's books and this one is the best one yet. Keep writing your Longboat Key plots so we can all stay with them.
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.
Matt Royal is a retired attorney just trying to enjoy living the Florida coastal life, but things keep happening that draw him in. This latest escapade keeps you reading to find out the next twist and turn. Although there is quite a lot of violence, it isn't graphic in description. The action is in finding the "bad guys." A great read!
Another great action book by H. Terrell Griffin. Have read them all.