Motives and murders collide in a multi-layered mystery

Fatal Decree, by H. Terrell Griffin. Oceanview Publishing. 336 pages. $25.95.

As comfortable as old clothes, yet relentlessly suspenseful and constantly surprising, Mr. Griffin’s latest in the Matt Royal Mystery Series confirms his place as a worthy heir to the John D. McDonald tradition. The questions come early and do not stop growing in complexity: why are early middle age women being murdered? How and why are Guatemalan and Mexican drug gangs involved? Who is out to scare or murder Longboat Key Detective Jennifer Diane (J. D.) Duncan, Matt’s good friend and wished-for lover? How is the secret agency that employs Matt’s friend Jock Algren compromised by or involved in these murders? Fatal-Decree-high-res

Do we have a national security issue? A revenge plot: payback to J. D. for someone she sent to prison earlier in her career? Unusual coincidences somehow tie together unrelated criminal and law enforcement activities. Terry Griffin will have Matt and his colleagues get to the bottom of this murky swamp filled with intertwined tentacles. Honed intuition, sharp investigative work, raw courage, and good old happenstance eventually put the brakes on an exhausting, high-tension, high-speed ride.

The intriguing main plot is rivaled as a center of interest by three other factors. One of these is the colorful cast of three-dimensional characters, each a realistic mix of consistency and complexity. Matt, J. D., Jock, the head of the police force, and even the scum of the earth whom they pursue are sharply individualized. In this outing, the author artfully explores the damage to Jock’s psychological health caused by the assassination duties he has performed over the years. Relationships are given time to grow and change. Such literary heft is unusual in genre fiction.

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The secondary plot in “Fatal Decree” traces the developing yet fragile relationship between Matt and J. D. Readers will root for them to come together while recognizing the factors that keep the relationship tenuous. Matt’s desire to protect this attractive, accomplished, and sharp-witted woman comes into conflict with her desire to prove herself as the competent professional that she is. His desire to win her over into greater and ongoing intimacy comes into conflict with her need to think for herself and not be pressured. Can J. D. overcome her island fever and glass fishbowl syndromes to find contentment on Longboat Key? Could Matt follow her back to Miami and give up his Southwest Florida paradise?

How each defines the balancing point between independent identity and a shared life together provides rich, penetrating dialogue and deep reader involvement. The pulse of embrace and withdrawal resounds on several levels. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as published in the February 14, 2013 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly, the February 20 Fort Myers edition, and the February 21 Bonita Springs edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – Terry Griffin

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