WHEN IT ISN’T WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
This is the first book in the Matt Royal mystery series by H. Terrell Griffin and it has a copyright date of 2005. At the time of this review there are 8 entries in the series, which is set in the present day.
Griffin’s main character, Matt Royal, calls himself a retired attorney. However, the reality is that he is a forty-ish burn out who had, several years prior, dropped out of the law game – and life – for two reasons. First, he could no longer reconcile the inequities between enacted law, practiced law and the concept of justice. Secondly, after letting his highly profitable career deny his wife both his time and the possibility of children for years, she left him. No ultimatum, no argument – she just requested a divorce one evening when he finally deigned to come home from work and was gone.
So, betrayed by his profession and having betrayed the most important person in his life, Matt drops out of his career as one of the most successful criminal defense attorneys in Florida. He then betrays himself by moving onto his boat on the southwest coast of Florida and becoming a nearly destitute drunk. Then a chance to right one of those legal injustices drops into his lap and a year later he has won more than the case. He is again financially secure, reasonably sober and determined to be the friend to his neighbors on the island that he had never been to his wife.
And then one of those friends, Logan Hamilton, finds the body of his occasional sexual partner on his balcony. Logan asks Matt to represent him on the murder charge, and reluctantly, it’s game on for Matt.
From this point on, the author weaves a well-told story of murder, con games, mysterious disappearances, another murder, drugs, identity theft, yet another murder, domestic abuse, politics and more murder. Since Griffin tells the tale by way of Royal’s first person POV, we only get the clues to it all as fast or as clearly as Royal decides to voice them.
By the time the story reached the trial stage, I was absolutely riveted to my seat. And the author does not disappoint here either. The proceedings feel realistic, and everything does not go Royal’s way. We are treated to the nuances of the game-playing that constitutes a trial in which a person’s life is at stake. And we are introduced to the caliber of attorney that Matt Royal was – and still is. Through the twists and turns of the trial, the author brings home to the reader the type of friend and the type of character that we will be reading about in future books.
But the end of the trial is not the end of the book. Even the least experienced reader can see that there are too many pages left for just an epilogue. However, by the time the blood pressure returns to normal on the last page, the reader should be satisfied. There is no cliffhanger for an ending and all but one of the plot threads are tied up. Just a little hanging thread, leading us on to the next book.
Cover art from Goodreads