Tag Archives: Sarasota

Two murder cases vie for attention in new “Matt Royal” mystery

Chasing Justice, by H. Terrell Griffin. Oceanview Publishing. 400 pages. Hardcover $27.95.

Call it Phil’s law. Whenever you have a mystery novel with two separate murder cases, the chances are that they will become linked in some way. Such is the situation in Mr. Griffin’s latest. A couple of murders are occupying their time and energy, though Longboat Key Police Detective J. D. (Jennifer Diane) Duncan and usually retired lawyer Matt Royal find plenty of energy for each other. ChasingJusticehigh-res

In J. D.’s professional lap is the question of why a nude, beautiful, surgically-enhanced blond named Linda Favereaux had been found with her skull crushed in her enormous, luxurious beach home. Her husband, two plus decades her senior, is nowhere to be found.

Matt has agreed to come out of retirement to defend his good friend Abby Lester, wife of the J. D’s police chief boss. She’s been accused of murdering a shady local businessman named Nate Bannister. Worse yet (though what’s worse than murder), she’s been accused of having had an affair with the man. A piece of physical evidence puts her at the scene of the crime. Abby says she had never even met Bannister.

If Abby is telling the truth, how did that evidence get there?  What’s going on?

Why is the case moving so quickly? What does it mean that the prosecuting attorney is borrowed from another jurisdiction within the state? Why has the investigation been given over to a state law enforcement agency? Why does the agent in charge seem to be so eager for this assignment?

Back to J. D.’s case: while the Favereaux couple has been living on Longboat Key for a couple of years, hardly anyone knows them. They keep to themselves. It’s obvious that they are enormously wealthy, but what is the source of that wealth?



These mysteries are like two giant piñatas with many smaller mysteries inside. J. D. has a case that leads to upper echelons of clandestine government operations. Yet it remains pretty much a straight, detective-focused murder mystery.

Matt’s story turns into a legal procedural and ultimately into a finely crafted courtroom drama. His case, too, becomes tangled up with people in high places – power players who have a lot to hide, including who really killed Nate Bannister. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 26, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 27 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Chasing Justice




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Meet the Authors in January 2015

Lisa Black

Lisa Black

Two exciting events promise to benefit both authors and readers in late January. The first of these is the Writers’ Domain program at Norris Home Furnising in Naples, Florida on January 29 from 5:30-7:30pm. No reservations needed to attend. Just show up. Among the many authors selling and signing their books will be Karen Bartlett, Ben Bova, Karen Harper, Lisa Black, James Lilliefors, Jean Harrington, Gwendolyn Heasley, Don Farmer, and Chris Curle. See Writers’ Domain – Norris Home Furnishings for more information.


Two days later, there is a splendid event planned in Sarasota by Avon Books.

Avon Books and Bookstore 1 Sarasota are teaming up to bring Florida romance readers the area’s first-ever multi-author KissCon (an Avon Affair!) on Saturday, January 31, 2015. This special VIP event includes a catered mix & mingle with the authors, followed by a special “Actor’s Studio”-type discussion, audience Q&A, interactive trivia, and an exclusive book signing (there will be tons of books to buy onsite!).

The star-studded author line-up includes: Katharine Ashe, Maya Banks, Lena Diaz, Megan Frampton, Jeaniene Frost, Laura Lee Guhrke, C.J. Kyle, Julia Quinn, Kerrelyn Sparks and C.L. Wilson.  For details, see Avon Romance Presents: KissCon Sarasota- Eventbrite

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Pregnant sheriff finds big trouble in “Life and Death” sequel

“Life and Death on Siesta Key,” by Sheila Marie Palmer. CreateSpace. 368 pages. Trade paperback $14.99.

This sequel to “Life and Death on the Tamiami Trail” (2012) continues to explore the Sarasota of the mid-1980s in meaningful contrast to the almost vanished community as it existed some thirty years earlier. The author’s (and lead character’s) nostalgia for the kinder, simpler time hovers over the arena of corruption, greed, and violence that Sheriff Bernadette (“Bernie”) Davis contends with as the chief law enforcement officer in her county.  Native_Cover_4073197.indd

Nestled between to hi-rise condo buildings on Sarasota’s Siesta Key is a private home that has withstood the assaults of the developers. Its resident, a blonde beauty named Sally Keith, has been murdered there. A strong circumstantial case exists against her Sally’s boyfriend, Danny Dean, who happens to be not only the county administrator, but also a man whom Bernie had briefly dated before meeting her husband, DeSoto County Sheriff Buck Davis. Now Bernie, garbed in a maternity outfit, must leave the ranch house headquarters of the cattle and citrus business her husband owns and get to work. Mr. Dean will speak with no one but Bernie.

Dean was found with the murder weapon in his hand – a gun he had given Sally for protection. He swears that she was already dead when he arrived.

The investigation begins with attempts to know more about Sally and a search for witnesses. The latter brings Bernie to knocking on condo doors, visiting a nearby shopping area, and meeting up with a bunch of witches whose new moon and full moon ceremonies take place at the nearby beach. Bernie appoints Detective Ike McDuffie, a childhood friend whose career is stalled, to be her partner on this case.



Tracking down Sally’s past takes Bernie to snowbound St. Peter, Minnesota. Here Bernie discovers facts about Sally’s background, including childhood troubles, abuse, and several years in a mental hospital. Her files include a photo of Sally as a young woman who had been raped and beaten – then a similar photo of another young woman turns up. While Sally had straightened out her life and become an ER nurse in Sarasota, perhaps her tormented past had caught up with her, leading to her death.

Sheriff Bernie finds her own life threatened when she gets too close to the truth. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the October 1, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the October 2 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Siesta Key

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Matt Royal mystery series hits another high note

Found, by H. Terrell Griffin. Oceanview Publishing. 357 pages. Hardcover $26.95.

Mr. Griffin’s eighth Matt Royal Mystery refines all of the pleasures his fans have come to expect. These include carefully shaded tough-guy investigators, brutal villains, witty banter among friends, robust romance, nonstop (it seems) eating and drinking in Sarasota area establishments, dogged investigation, constant threat, and the enchantments of the SW Florida coastal setting.



Throw in some World War II history (shaped to the ends of the present day plot) and you’ve got a complex web of questions that won’t give up their answers without a fight.

Mystery number one: Matt’s girlfriend J. D. Duncan, detective in the Longboat Key Police Department, receives a text message from a friend who had supposedly died over a year ago. It contains the woman’s photo and the name Jed, Katie Fredrickson’s private nickname for J. D. Is this a prank, or a call for help? Katie had disappeared when her husband was killed.

Mystery number two: a man in a stolen Jaguar pulls up to a condo complex, shoots an elderly man named Ken Goodlow point blank, then drives onto a bridge that is opening and plunges with the Jaguar to his death.  Witnesses reveal that Goodlow had served in WWII, moved to the nearby fishing community of Cortez soon after, and had been president of the Cortez Historical Society.

He had come to the condo building to show a friend of his some old photographs taken shortly after the war. Matt and J. D. soon interview Bud Jamison, another friend of Goodlow, who identifies the two of them as “the last of the young men who came back from the war and went to work on the boats,” fishing for a living. It soon becomes clear that whatever led to Goodlow’s murder has Jamison spooked. For he feels he might be next. But why?


Matt and J. D. along with the assistance of Jock, Matt’s deep cover government operative, pursue the two mysteries through the tried and true drudgery of questioning witness, relatives of victims, and people with any connection to the deceased Jaguar driver.

About a third of the way into the novel, Mr. Griffin introduces another time line that he elaborates over several chapters interspersed among those developing the present day timeline. This thread gives us a sense of the Sarasota area (Cortez in particular) in 1942 and details the happenings on a German U-boat patrolling the Gulf of Mexico with a clearly defined mission. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the January 15, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weeky and the January 16 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Charlotte County editions, click here  Florida Weekly – Found 1 and here Florida Weekly – Found 2.

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Semi-rural Sarasota sets stage for murder, nostalgia, romance

“Life and Death on the Tamiami Trail,” by Sheila Marie Palmer. CreateSpace. 366 pages. $14.99 from Amazon.com, Kindle ebook $9.99.

I would have called it “The Sheriffs and the Gypsies.” Certainly this book, disguised, ornamented memoir presented as fiction, is better than the unpromising title it wears.

From the vantage point of a mid-1980s murder case, Sheila Marie Palmer launches what amounts to a cultural history of semi-rural Sarasota County. It’s the first book I’ve read set in this part of Florida that isn’t busy with marinas, sport fishing, and transplanted retirees; with upscale eateries, tourists, and second home ex-urbanites. Ms. Palmer’s tale takes us through several decades in a place that is rooted in neighborhood friendships and simple, unpretentious lifestyles. A place that may no longer exist. 

The protagonist, Sheriff Bernie Raines, has spent her life there. Raised in a somewhat friendly compound of small apartment-homes called Attwood’s Place, she had the somewhat unusual experience of living in a n area that also was the home of a Gypsy clan.  Her childhood friend was a boy named Zindelo, grandson of the Dukker, the clan patriarch. Many of these colorful people had circus jobs.

Bernie must investigate the murder of a mob-connected criminal, Antonio Verde. When the immediate and only suspect turns out to be Bernie’s childhood friend, Zindelo, she isn’t sure how to react. Perhaps she should remove herself from the case. Instead, she chooses to enlist the assistance of Buck Davis, sheriff of neighboring DeSoto County. Buck is already more than a fellow professional and more than a friend.

As the unfolding present dramatizes the investigation, providing authoritative details about procedural matters, flashbacks amplify the world of Bernie’s youth and the history of the region. It also amplifies much about Gypsy lore that is alternately charming and unsettling. That same forward motion, as you might have guessed, builds the deepening relationship between Buck and Bernie. The rumors blossoming around them are somewhat ahead of the progress of their romance, but the romance is catching fire.

Sheila Marie Palmer

Poor dead Antonio Verde is a man from Chicago who has been implicated in mob activities. What was he doing in Sarasota? He owns a piece of property there, but he’s been a shadow – hardly known by anyone. What got him killed? And, if it isn’t Zindelo, who is the killer?

The answer has something to do with Bernie’s recurrent daydreams, dreams and nightmares. Something has kindled her memory of things past – no doubt the presence of Dukker and Zindelo is the primary spark. However hard Bernie tries, there is a veil that her memory can’t pierce.

Dukker has suggested to Bernie that she had better conclude her investigation within a week. Just what will happen if she doesn’t is not clear, but the mild threat puts additional pressure on her. So do certain strange occurrences that seem to be aimed at frightening or harming her. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the July 25, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 26 issues of the Naples, Bonita Springs, and Spacecoast editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Sheila Palmer

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An otherwise beautiful day on Longboat Key

“Bitter Legacy,” by H. Terrell Griffin. Oceanview Publishing. 360 pages. $25.95.

H. Terrell Griffin continues his Matt Royal mystery series with a stunning thriller in which uncompromising evil and equally uncompromising courage meet in a fight to the finish. Along the tale’s violent way, Mr. Griffin explores a little-known aspect of Florida’s history involving Black Seminoles. Though it’s not clear at first, what’s at stake is control over a phosphate mining empire. What’s Matt got to do with it? Well, almost nothing – but others think he does. Clearly, someone is after Matt and his good friend Logan Hamilton, as shots ring out on an otherwise beautiful day on Longboat Key.

Involved in the investigation is Longboat Key police chief Bill Lester, who actually hears the crack of the rifle and sees Logan fall on a downtown Sarasota street. A large book stuffed in Logan’s inside jacket pocket blocks the bullet. Logan’s pal, retired lawyer Matt Royal, returns from a week’s boating dalliance with a lady friend to find out about Logan’s mishap and soon enough to discover that he, too, is a target.

A piece of the novel’s action takes place in and around a fictitious small Collier County town, Belleville, where a poorly-skilled lawyer, Jason Blackmore, is assassinated. Readers learn that Blackmore had referred a man named Abraham Osceola to Matt Royal, who in fact had met him before on Key West. Now some of the bits and pieces of information that Griffin parcels out begin to make tenuous connections. Abraham Osceola is a “Black Seminole,” returned from his people’s settlement in exile on Andros Island in the Bahamas to make a case for their ownership of extensive mineral rights in Florida. There are hints about an old document that supports this claim.

To enjoy this review in its entirety, as it appears in the January 12-18, 2011 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly, and in the Naples and Palm Beach Gardens editions for January 20-26, click here: Florida Weekly – H. Terrell Griffin

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