About 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.
Read an Excerpt
A Matt Royal Mystery
By H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2011 H. Terrell Griffin
All rights reserved.
The killer shot Logan Hamilton in the chest. Not from close range, but from a long way off. Maybe from the rooftop of one of the high-rise condos that line Main Street in downtown Sarasota. Logan had been walking east and crossed Gulfstream Avenue, staying on the north side of the street. He was coming from a boat docked two blocks away at Marina Jack, ambling toward a restaurant on the corner of Main Street and Palm Avenue. He had a lunch date with Bill Lester, the chief of police of Longboat Key, an island lying off Florida's west coast just across the bay from Sarasota.
The chief had arrived early and was sitting at a sidewalk table, idly watching the downtown workers scurrying off to lunch or errands before returning to their desks in stock brokerages, banks, or law firms. Their lunch hours were used for a lot of things, not always lunch. It was Friday, and there was a hint of expectancy lingering in the thin spring air, relief that another week was about over, that the weekend beckoned.
Lester was wearing a pair of jeans, a white golf shirt, sneakers, and a ball cap. He was not tall, five eight maybe, and still carried nearly the same weight as when he had signed on with the police department twenty years before. A small belly protruded over the waist of the jeans, but most of it disappeared when he stood. He was on his way to Ed Smith Stadium to see a spring training game. Marie Phillips, Logan's girlfriend, had left word at the police station that Logan wanted to meet for lunch, so here he was. The game didn't start until two.
A breeze blew from the west, bringing a slight chill off the Gulf of Mexico. It was late March, the sun bright and warm on the chief's face, the wind blocked by the planters situated along the curb. He raised his hand, signaling to Logan, who was just across Palm Avenue waiting for a motorcycle to clear the intersection.
A slight cracking sound assailed the chief 's ears, a sound his professional senses immediately identified as a rifle report coming from behind him. Logan crumpled to the sidewalk, going over backward, no attempt to catch himself. He was down and still as the chief came out of his chair, moving fast, running toward the body, pulling his badge from his pocket, jerking the pistol from the ever-present holster at his waist. No, he thought. Not Logan. Please, not Logan. Logan was his friend, his drinking and fishing buddy. Who would kill Logan? Why?
He crossed Palm Avenue at a dead run, stopped, and stood over Logan. He looked up the street from where he thought the bullet had come, his pistol pointed at the sky. Nothing. No movement, except pedestrians running toward him. No threat, just curious people. Death had come to a quiet street in Sarasota on a spring day that made people smile and gave them purpose, a day that rivaled the ambrosia of the gods in its sweetness. Not Logan, not on this day, not now. The chief's breath was shallow, quick, the onset of hyperventilation threatening to overcome his professional instincts.
He fell to his knees beside Logan, tears welling in his eyes. He was fighting off the panic that struggled to overcome the detachment he would need to get him through the next minutes. Logan wore a pair of cargo shorts, boat shoes, shirt, and a windbreaker bearing the logo of the University of Tampa Spartans. His sparse graying hair was tousled by the wind, his middle-aged face flaccid, benign looking, bereft of life. Hope was deserting Lester as he tore open Logan's shirt, exposing a patch of reddened skin that would become a bruise, but no entry wound. He saw movement in the victim's chest, the lungs filling and deflating rhythmically. Logan wasn't dead. Where had he been hit? Where the hell were the medics? Lester pushed back the panic, striving mightily to purge himself of the deluge of adrenalin that gushed through his body. Logan was alive, but for how long.
The chief looked more closely at Logan's chest, trying to find a bullet hole. Nothing. He moved the windbreaker back over the bruise. He noticed something heavy in the inside pocket of the jacket. A thick paperback book, five or six hundred pages at least. Lester pulled it out and found the bullet lodged in the book. Relief spread through him. Logan hadn't been shot. The bruise was not lethal. A few days in the hospital and he'd be as good as new. He chuckled, a nervous reaction to the relief. Saved by Ayn Rand, he thought.
A sniper rifle bullet travels at about three thousand feet per second when it leaves the barrel. The friction caused by the air through which it travels slows the projectile. The farther the distance between the rifle and the target, the slower the bullet is traveling when it impacts the victim. The slower the bullet, the less damage it does. It was impossible to determine the distance the bullet in Logan's book had traveled, but it had to have been a long way, or the slug would have penetrated his chest.
The chief scanned the street, looking east, trying to see any movement, any clue as to where the bullet had come from. Where was the sniper? There were a lot of possibilities. The tall condominiums that had sprouted like weeds along Main Street, a couple of high-rise office buildings. All would have provided the shooter with a place from which to bring sudden death to interrupt the rhythms of a spring day in a quiet seaside town.
Only a few seconds had elapsed since Bill had reached Logan. It seemed like an eternity. The chief bent over the body, saw slight movement of the head, and then Logan's eyes popped open. "You're hurt," said Lester. "Stay down."
Logan stirred. "Bill?" He shook his head, trying to clear it. He was trying to focus his eyes and his mind, trying to understand what had happened. "What the hell is going on?"
The chief put a hand on Logan's chest. "Somebody took a shot at you. You're okay. Stay down. For now. Trust me."
Logan closed his eyes, let his body relax. Concern etched its way across his features, an eye popped open, glanced at Bill as if to reassure himself that the chief was still there, still had his gun out. The eye closed, opened again, closed. Logan was trying to comply with Lester's order, but it was obvious to the chief that he was scared. With good reason. Somebody had tried to kill him. A man came out of the bar in the middle of the block, holding a cell phone aloft. "Paramedics are on the way."
A siren wailed, the sound bouncing off the buildings. An ambulance was leaving the downtown firehouse a couple of blocks away. Two police cruisers were three blocks east, turning onto Main Street, traveling in tandem, their sirens yelping, light bars flashing, engines roaring, coming fast. They fell in behind the ambulance as it screamed to a stop at the curb. A paramedic hurried from the passenger seat, carrying a case, his whole body conveying a look of urgency. He started toward the chief and Logan. The driver opened the back door of the ambulance, removed a gurney, and stood quietly on the sidewalk as if waiting for some sign to proceed.
"He's okay," shouted Lester.
"Let me check," said the paramedic.
He leaned over Logan, put his finger on his carotid artery, inserted the ear pieces of his stethoscope and listened for a few moments to Logan's heart, nodding his head. Logan's eyes were open, a bemused expression on his face.
"I tried to tell him I'm okay," Logan said. "Let me up."
The paramedic shook his head. "We're getting you to the hospital." Lester waved his badge at the man. "No. We're not going to the hospital."
"Sorry, Chief. I've got to take him in."
"Somebody just tried to kill him. He can't go to the hospital."
"I don't have any choice. He's going to Sarasota Memorial."
"Call your chief. Tell him Bill Lester wants to talk to him."
The paramedic stopped, uncertainty flashing across his face. He looked at the chief's badge and his gun and reached for his cell phone. He spoke into it and in a few seconds spoke again. Then he handed the phone to Lester. "It's Chief Fulcher."
"Les," said Bill Lester, "I've got a situation here. One of my citizens has been shot on your street. He's a good friend of mine. Dome a favor and tell your man to do what I ask him to do."
The police chief was quiet for a moment or two and then handed the phone back to the paramedic. The man spoke again, listened, clicked the phone off. "What do you want me to do?"
"Take us to the medical examiner's office."
"You want to go to the morgue?"
The chief nodded his head. "Doc Hawkins can check him out."
The cops had tumbled out of their cars behind the paramedic, then pulled up short. They recognized Lester, backed off a step or two, looked about, puzzled. One spoke quietly into the radio microphone attached to the epaulet of his shirt, leaned in to hear the response, spoke softly to the cop standing next to him, his body language indicating indecision. They both pulled out notebooks and began to question the onlookers who always gather to gawk.
The chief took a sheet from the gurney, covered Logan, and helped the paramedic load him onto a stretcher. He crawled into the back of the ambulance and told the driver to take them to the county morgue. Lester picked up his phone and made another call as the meat wagon sped on its way to the last place anyone ever wants to escort a friend.
The chief medical examiner for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, Dr. Bert Hawkins, was standing by the door as Logan was unloaded from the ambulance. He didn't look happy.
"I'll take it from here," Hawkins said to the paramedic. "I'll bring your gurney back as soon as I get him on the table."
"Do you want any help?" asked the paramedic.
"No, thanks." He turned to Chief Lester. "You might as well come with me."
"Wouldn't miss it."
They pushed the gurney down a long corridor and turned into the autopsy room at the end. The place smelled of disinfectant and ancient medicinal odors that the air-conditioning was unable to purge. The fluorescent lights reflected off the highly polished tile floor and bounced off the expanse of white walls unbroken by pictures or other decorations. The morgue was not a pleasant place.
Hawkins removed the sheet from Logan, saying, "Let's get this piece of shit onto the table so I can start cutting."
"Cutting, my ass," said Logan as he sat upright. "What's going on, Bill? My chest hurts like hell and I'm lucky I'm not dead. Who shot me? Why am I in the morgue?"
"We don't know who shot you. I called Bert from the ambulance and told him I was bringing you in, alive and well."
Bert cleared his throat. "You know that the Sarasota PD is going to be swarming this place in a few minutes. They'll want a statement from the victim. "
"I still don't know what the hell is going on," said Logan. "Who wants me dead, and why?"
"I'm kind of making this up on the fly," Lester said. "When I saw you go down after the shot was fired, I thought you were dead. The shooter probably thought so, too."
"He was almost right."
"Yeah. If we keep you under wraps for a few days, you'll be safe and we might get a line on who's trying to kill you and why. If you end up in a hospital, whoever is after you might try again."
"Somebody just tried to kill me. I don't have any idea who or why," said Logan. "Is that the best idea you can come up with?"
"For right now."
Bert said, "I've got to get this gurney back to the ambulance guys. You stay here."
"Logan," said the chief, "I'm glad you're okay. Your girlfriend's message said it was important that we meet for lunch. What's up?"
"When did you talk to Marie?"
"I didn't. She left the message with our dispatcher."
"The dispatcher called me on my cell and said you wanted to meet for lunch," Logan said. "At the Sports Page."
Lester opened his phone, dialed, identified himself, and said, "Did you call Logan Hamilton and ask him to meet me for lunch today?" When he hung up, he said to Logan, "The dispatcher got the call from Marie and called me. That was all he knew about our meeting. Somebody was setting you up. But why did they want me on the scene?"
"I don't know. Why the hell would somebody want to shoot me in the first place?"
"Good question. Maybe the CSI people will turn up something on the shooter. We'll get you into a hotel for tonight and figure out something more permanent tomorrow."
"I'm hungry," said Logan. "Never did get lunch."
"Let Doc Hawkins take a look at you and we'll grab a sandwich."
"Somewhere safe," said Logan.
Hawkins returned. "Want to tell me what's going on?"
"You know everything we know," said Lester.
"Okay. Let me take a look at you, Logan. "
Hawkins did a cursory examination. He shined a penlight into Logan's eyes, palpated the back of his skull where it had hit the sidewalk when he was shot, looked closely at the bruise left by the bullet. He finished and said, "No signs of concussion or anything broken. You've got a knot on the back of your head and you're going to be sore for a few days in the area where you took the bullet. All in all, you look better than most of my patients. "
"You're the medical examiner," said Logan. "Your patients are all dead. "
"Yeah. That probably explains it. "CHAPTER 2
I eased my boat slowly into its slip, adding power as I fought the current flowing through the lagoon with the outgoing tide. A brown pelican sat on the outboard piling, watching nervously. As I laid the boat gently against the dock, the bird took flight, rose a few feet, and landed on a nearby pier.
Jessica Connor stepped from the gunwale onto the dock and looped a line around a piling. I shut down the big outboards and walked another line to the bow, lassoed a cleat, and pulled the boat in snug against the pilings. I would loosen the lines after we unloaded, giving the boat a little room to float away from the dock with the wind and current.
It was mid-afternoon on Saturday. We'd had a good run the sixty miles from Boca Grande Pass, staying about two miles offshore on a sea of glass, the autopilot engaged, the engines humming, and Jessica sitting nude next to me enjoying the sun and my reaction. She put the bikini on as we came into Longboat Pass and idled under the bridge. Just inside, I turned south and then east, rounded Land's End, and came to my cottage clinging to the edge of Longboat Key, facing the lagoon and Jewfish Key.
"Matt," said Jessica, "you'd better check this line before you go up. I'm never sure I've got it tied right. "
"No sweat. Let's haul the junk up to the house and then I'll secure the boat. "
The sun was warm as we worked at unloading a week's worth of dirty clothes and the other detritus of a vacation well spent. Jessica made several trips, carrying the gear to the end of the dock, while I washed down the boat. She was a twenty-eight-foot Grady-White with a small cabin, powered by twin Yamaha 250-horsepower outboards. A sweet piece of machinery that I called Recess.
Jessica and I had spent the week boating around southwest Florida, stopping at likely looking places in Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, and points south. We stopped for cheeseburgers at Cabbage Key and I was glad to see a portrait of the longtime dockmaster, Terry Forgie, hanging in the restaurant. He'd been an institution, and the place was a little less lively with his passing. We had dinner with my friends Dan and Cher Clark in Punta Gorda. We stayed two nights at Everglades City and spent Friday night at the old Miller's Marina just inside Boca Grande Pass.
We'd made a pact that we'd tune out the world. We turned off our cell phones and refused to watch TV or read newspapers. If somebody dropped the big bomb on New York or Washington, we'd probably hear about it from somebody at the marinas we visited. Anything less than that wasn't worth our attention.
We'd had more than our share of wine and beer and good seafood and outstanding sex, but our idyll was about to end. Jessica would leave the next day for Paris and her job at the American embassy there. I would rejoin the slow rhythms that make up life on my slice of paradise, Longboat Key. My buddy Logan Hamilton and I would fish, walk the beach, eat good food at the island establishments, drink our share of beer, ogle the women, fish some more when the mood struck us, and on occasion talk of things deep or amusing or silly. We'd spend time with our friends at Tiny's, the bar on the edge of the village, eat lunch at Mar Vista or Moore's, and gobble up the days that seemed to stretch endlessly before us.
Excerpted from Bitter Legacy 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Retired lawyer Matt Royal has been away from his beloved fishing and beer at Longboat Key, Florida. When he finally comes home he is stunned with what has happened to friends. An assassin shot in the chest Logan Hamilton on a busy Sarasota street, Logan survived, but Longboat Key Police Chief Bill Lester, expecting a second attempt of the sniper knows his target lives, sets up a bit of misdirection by having the "victim" taken to the morgue. Soon after that attack, that same professional kills attorney Jason Blakemoore. Not long after that Matt finds himself in the crosshairs of a determined diligent killer. Matt has no idea who and why anyone is gunning down him and his friends; however, he plans to find out and end the marauder's murdering assault even if that alienates police officer Jennifer Duncan. This is an engaging low key thriller in which the targets are clueless as to why the perpetrator is after them. The story line is fast-paced from the opening murder attempt and never slows down. While the motives is low brow, the plot is entertainingly delightful; when the motive ties to the past and the Black Seminoles, it loses its edge as that feels forced to provide a powerful rationale. Still fans will enjoy Royal's latest tale (see Blood Island, Murder Key and Longboat Blues); as unlike his last outing (see Wyatt's Revenge) in which he was shot on two continents, he only becomes target practice on one. Harriet Klausner
¿Bitter Legacy¿ by H. Terrell Griffin:Just as the motor moves along character Royal¿s boat Recess on Florida¿s waters, author H. Terrell Griffin propels the reader forward to Bitter Legacy¿s conclusion. Chapter by chapter and line by line, Griffin snags the reader¿s attention and doesn¿t let go.Retired attorney Matt Royal wanted nothing more than to spend carefree days on Longboat Key. Unfortunately, they are not as relaxed as he imagined; instead he is shot at and practically blown up. Royal and his longtime friend Logan Hamilton are smack dab in the middle of a fatal riddle. Someone wants them dead and they have no idea why. Despite the aid of Royal¿s best friend Jock Algren and others, Royal endures a week from hell. Amidst fighting off hired members of from a coldblooded biker gang hired by a cosseted billionaire with nothing else to do, Royal and friends discover an old document that could rein down financial devastation to the affluent of Florida.In walks Jennifer Duncan, the newest officer to join the ranks of Longboat Key¿s finest. Her apparent good looks and easy laugh could distract Royal and be his undoing at a time when he needs his wits about him.Through the weaving of some very well-defined characters, Griffin subliminally makes the reader turn the pages. Once you start, you¿ll find this is one book you won¿t be able to set aside. In the words of Matt Royal, ¿¿ and that¿s the way it went.¿
For anyone familiar with the Longboat Key/Sarasota area, H. Terrell Griffin's books are a must read. In the same style asJohn Grisham, John McDonald and Robert Parker, these books are fun, exciting and extremely accurate in its descriptions of the settings. The only problem with the Matt Royal series of books is that there are enough of them.
Reading.just couldnt get into it.
4 STARS Well now I have read all seven of the Matt Royal Mysteries. Now I will have a long wait for the next one. Hope it is not to far away. Matt Royal is a retired lawyer turn beach bum who gets into a lot of messes with people trying to kill him many times. They have never suceeded. Matt is a loyal friend and in return has good friends too. Someone tried to kill his friend Logan than they tried to kill him. He has no clue for who wants him dead this time. His good friend Jock shows up to help him with all his skills and contacts. Jock works for a top secret goverment agency. He can pick up a phone and call the President of the U.S.A. The body count rises of all the ones who are sent into kill Matt & Logan. They were both trained in the vetnam war and were heros. So the rest of the world see that Matt is a retired lawyer and Logan retired in business both early. They were trained to lead. Logan was a sniper and chopper pilot. Matt was an L.T. special forces. They both drink too much and eat out a lot. They care about the people around them and help where they can. Thier community returns thier feelings and let them know when they hear something that can help them. I bought this ebook on Amazon.
Taking a hint from other authors, such as Carl Hiaasen and Jeff Lindsay, H. Terrell Griffin sets his story in a fascinating Florida, that sets the tone for this wildly entertaining mystery. Matt Royal, retired soldier, lawyer, and occasional fisherman and beer drinker, becomes entangled in a web of conspiracy when an attempt is made on his life, and the life of his best friend, Logan. Royal, assisted by the chief of police, Logan, and his buddy Jock, a high up member of a secretive government agency with considerable influence and resources, embarks on a cat and mouse chase to find the people who want him dead. The small town Florida setting allows Griffin to juxtapose his protagonist and supporting characters, all of who seem to possess that rare quality found only in small town, working class America, with the cold corrupt tone of the rich greedy villains. On top of the attempts at his life, Matt Royal is also forced to learn to work with the new female detective, J.D. Duncan, who not only threatens to disrupt the "good ole boy" cooperation between Royal and the Longboat Key Police Department, but also stirs feelings somewhere deeper in Royal's heart. Duncan is a great fish out of water, by the book, contrast to Royal's more maverick ideals. Through J.D. Duncan, Griffin manages to produce a surprisingly believable, romantic subplot. This is the fifth novel to feature Matt Royal, but as this was the first novel I read, I don't think it is important to read the other installments in the series before reading this one. From the moment I began reading this book, I could not put it down! The novel takes place over a weeklong period of time, and is divided into sections by the different days of the week(it seemed oddly fitting that I read this weeklong story as the first novel in my Book A Week challenge). With the fairly short chapters and quick pacing, this novel had me flying through the pages and kept me engaged to the very end. As a fan of great mysteries, interesting characters, and beautiful settings, I found Bitter Legacy to be a great read!
This is the fifth in the Matt Royal series. It's a punchy, hard-bitten thriller that starts at a run and accelerates from there. If the runner tires a bit toward the end of the marathon, well, that's not so surprising. If readers are looking for a tightly wound, very male trio of protagonists, here they are, all interesting characters with strong back stories mostly hinted at. They are three buddies who have each other's back with little question, regardless of circumstances or how big and evil is the adversary. Principal operator here is Matt Royal, our narrator. He's a retired lawyer, living a pleasant life on Longboat Key down in the Florida Islands. He's just coming back in town from a week of sun, seafood, sex, and beer, with a fine example of American womanhood. Meanwhile his second best friend, Logan Hamilton, has been plugged by a sniper. Town's in turmoil, several unknown thugs are apparently gunning for Royal, and a citizen Matt met once wants his help with an unknown but possibly valuable law suit. The plot is not very complicated but it is eminently satisfying for readers who like this sort of thing. The framework gives the narrator plenty of opportunity to comment on various societal ills and the author uses those opportunities. He uses them well, and I never felt as if the story had been set aside for a few pages while the author expounded. All the details enriched Matt Royal's character and never were a distraction. I lost track of the number of attempts on Royal's life, all of which ended badly for the professed killers, but there were several, varied, inventive and fun. The novel is aptly named and roars to a satisfying conclusion with almost no missteps. Smoothly written, I enjoyed the novel immensely. This is a strong thriller with every attribute one expects in the genre.
As a fan of Wyatt's Revenge, which was also written by Mr. Griffin in 2009, I was extremely happy to see another Matt Royal mystery come across my desk. Unfortunately, although there is a storyline throughout that is interesting, another also appears that leaves something to be desired. For readers unfamiliar with the main character, Matt Royal is a former attorney, as well as a former member of the Special Forces in Vietnam. After quite a full, slightly frightening past, Matt settled down in Longboat Key, Florida where the most stressful parts of his life include fishing, eating, and drinking. (Ah.to be Matt Royal). As we begin our tale, Matt has just gotten home from a long sailing journey where he spent many relaxing days at sea with a beautiful woman who has gone back to her life in Europe. Not beside himself with tears over this, Matt is actually quite excited about getting back to his life of peaceful freedom. The information he finds out upon his return, however, is anything but peaceful and serene. A sniper chose to shoot Matt's dear friend, Logan Hamilton, in broad daylight on a busy Sarasota street. The man, thank goodness, survived the deadly attack, but a plan cooked up between him and Bill Lester, the police chief, has sent Logan into hiding so that the assassin can continue to think that he has succeeded in his work. As the story goes deeper down the 'thriller' avenue, more bodies pile up. Included in these new mysterious happenings are a lawyer who is working on authenticating an ancient document that deals with the Seminole Indians and their 'stake' in the state of Florida; a tourist who was left for dead; a very lethal biker gang; and, a lonely, isolated, eccentric billionaire who is extremely entertaining. While he's trying desperately to solve these mysteries and stay alive, Matt also finds that he, too, is a target but doesn't know why. He also gets tied up with Jennifer Duncan, an extremely beautiful woman who is the newest member of the Longboat Key police force, who ends up being knee deep in his investigation. As I said at the beginning of this review, I am a fan of Mr. Griffin's book called Wyatt's Revenge. This book featured the same characters that I fell in love with the first time around but, to me, this story was somehow lacking in substance. I did, however, really like a chapter that centered on Matt learning about evil that prepared the reader for a very well-written Vietnam experience. This experience in Matt Royal's life really showed the difference between the guy with the pitchfork that the church tells people evil is all about, and actual real, live evil that the world gives out ten-fold. Quill says: If you're interested in a hard-to-solve mystery, this is definitely a book for you. Be aware, however, that there is a storyline that delves deeply into the Seminole Indians. Although I completely agree with the authors point of view regarding the horrible bias that still exists in the world today regarding the Seminoles, I don't believe it added very much to the actual storyline that the author was shooting for. Alas, it became more of a "lesson" than a work of thrilling fiction.