Following FATAL DECREE, who but bestselling author H. Terrell Griffin can take espionage, money laundering, flashbacks to World War II and a spy submarine, and plunk them on tiny Longboat Key, west of Sarasota? At the acme of that “half a mile wide at its broadest point” island is retired litigator Matt Royal, whom Detective J.D. (Jennifer Diane) Duncan considers a royal pain --- when they’re not sleeping together.
Longtime island resident Bud Jamison goes missing, after WWII vet Ken Goodlow on his way to see Matt is murdered, a homicide that rocks Longboat Key tranquility. And why did Ken need Matt’s legal expertise when Florida is lousy with lawyers? Moreover, many of Matt’s motley crew of acquaintances have been “offed” in this and the previous seven episodes. Katie Fredrickson, a friend whom J.D. thought was murdered along with her husband the year before, texts current photos to “Jed,” J.D.’s college nickname. Matt discovers mysterious references to U166, and the only Web search results make no sense.
"I’m thrilled to have 'found' one of America’s foremost thriller authors, a master who seasons his concoctions with the right amount of humor and enough action to fill a dozen novels..."
Thrown into the mix are a dastardly lawyer, an automobile dealer who launders drug money “clean as a whistle,” a dirty cop who moonlights using the wrong arm of the law, and “The Mafia guy,” who seems to be the fountainhead of evil and source of endless goons trying to kill Matt. “Those guys aren’t the sharpest crooks I’ve run across, but they’re well organized.” What appears to be cherry-red herrings come back to bite inattentive readers. Now, “the threads of two disparate mysteries come together” in a complex plot.
Not surprisingly, Matt’s BFF, Jock Algren, makes an appearance, a shadowy operative who has the president’s personal phone number. “Jock’s world was a jungle where only the fittest and wiliest survived.” Matt now enters Jock’s “murky and deadly and lawless realm” when he crosses moral and legal lines, and philosophizes about violating a slew of laws for the greater good. Though the plot at times seems contrived and the characters shallow, always in search of an open bar, there’s a wealth of knowledge about those who make up Florida’s history.
Like Matt --- often compared to John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee --- the author lives on Longboat Key and is a retired attorney. Described by the publisher as a mystery series with recurring central characters, each Matt Royal installment reads as a stand-alone. Griffin’s books are really intense thrillers in the vein of MacDonald, and are more of a whydunit than a whodunit. (Is Griffin’s use of J.D.’s initials a tribute to the iconic thriller author whom Stephen King called “the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller,” and who wrote the screenplay for Cape Fear?)
FOUND is my first Matt Royal mystery, and I immediately acquired Griffin’s backlist. I’m thrilled to have “found” one of America’s foremost thriller authors, a master who seasons his concoctions with the right amount of humor and enough action to fill a dozen novels --- “and you just can’t ask for more than that.”
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on November 22, 2013