The suspense thermometer rises in this chilling Florida mystery

“Collateral Damage,” by H. Terrell Griffin. Oceanview. 360 pages. $25.95.

Terry Griffin’s novels have a most attractive narrative ease. Nothing seems rushed, as we move with the characters from one location to another, which often means from one restaurant, pub, or dive to another – enjoying an eating and drinking tour of Longboat Key, Florida and its environs. Business and friendship coexist in these sub-tropical neighborhood eateries. There is a tension in the dialogue, as questions are raised and explanations explored about the pressing criminal matters at hand. This balance of ease and tension, of pointed concern and light-hearted banter, of indulgence and discipline, gives Mr. Griffin’s novels their unique charm and energy. Throw in his idyllic portraits of coastal Southwest Florida and a delightful cast of central characters and you’ve got surefire reading pleasure. 

“Collateral Damage” is no exception. Here’s the setup: One day after his wedding at the local Hilton, the groom is murdered on the beach by a sniper. The man’s father, a wealthy businessman with whom Matt Royal served in Vietnam, asks Matt to look into the matter. Is it a coincidence that three other homicides take place on a Sarasota Bay dinner cruise the same day as the groom’s murder? If not, then what’s the connecting link?

Matt Royal, retired lawyer and intrepid freelance crime fighter, soon gathers together his old friends and loyal comrades in arms to pursue the investigation. Mr. Griffin’s readers will always be pleased to reunite with Logan Hamilton and Jock Algren, the latter being a prominent agent for a top-secret government security agency that is even more powerful than the familiar alphabet agencies. Involved in the case as well is Longboat Key Police Force detective J. D. Duncan, a forceful and attractive woman whose friendship with Matt is cautiously moving toward romance.

Before long, Matt himself is targeted, and the likelihood that a powerful group with Asian connections is behind the Longboat Key attacks and similar ones elsewhere in the United States. More and more, the threat seems focused on American individuals who served in the Vietnam War – or the children of such former soldiers. Moreover, the friend who has called upon Matt for help, a man who saved Matt’s life in Vietnam, does not seem to be entirely forthcoming.

Terry Griffin

The investigation requires cooperation between the official investigators – J. D., her boss, and to some extent Jock’s agency – and the unofficial ones like Matt and Hamilton. The team, which works well together, covers a lot of territory in and around the Sarasota-Tampa area, other parts of Florida, and the Bahamian Abaco Islands. Matt and company must probe the mysterious Otto Foundation and the sinister Vietnam-era Operation Thanatos before getting to the bottom of things. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the December 14, 2011 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and several other editions of the newspaper, click here: Florida Weekly – H. Terrell Griffin pdf.

For a review of previous Griffin novel, click: Florida Weekly – H. Terrell Griffin

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Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

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