Murder Key

Murder Key_HTerrellGriffin_19454282




There is so much going on in this 2nd entry in Griffin’s Matt Royal series that I hardly know where to start. Now that doesn’t mean that the book has an overabundance of characters or that it has a morass of seemingly unrelated scenes. It means that Griffin wove his various plot threads together so tightly, even the love interest, that it was a challenge to determine if any of the secondary characters qualified as good guys.

From the first novel we know that our main character, Matt Royal, is a flawed but decent, protagonist. And based on the first novel, we can also place Logan Hamilton, Matt’s good friend, and Bill Lester, the town’s police chief, into the good-guy column. In this second entry, we are introduced to Jock Algren, a government agent who has been one of Royal’s best friends since middle school. We’re never told exactly which alphabet agency he works for but, with his weapons skills, it is definitely not the IRS. So we get to put him in the good-guy column also.

But after that, it is anybody’s guess who is clean and who is dirty – federal agent, police deputy, corporate worker or the person on the next bar stool. And that is the foundation of the major plot thread – someone wants Matt Royal dead. And nobody can figure out why, let alone who, is ordering the hit. All we, and Matt Royal, know is that the attempts to kill him begin the day he discovers, during his morning run, two illegals dead on the beach and a third legal immigrant critically wounded.

Frankly, I lost count of how many times the bad guys tried to kill Matt Royal in this book. But Matt is not exactly defenseless. He was a Special Forces officer in the last years of the Vietnam War and had killed and survived being attacked on multiple occasions then. But it has been years since that innate need of kill-or-be-killed has been required of him. Out of necessity, those killing skills return and, with them, a boatload of emotional and psychological detritus. But it is primarily Jock, his agency contacts and his agency skills that keep Matt alive as they burrow further and further into a multi-national criminal conspiracy. Griffin crafts Jock’s responses both physically and emotionally realistic, making detritus for him, too.

However, it is these repeated attempts to kill Royal that caused me to downgrade my rating on the book. It is only coincidence that Jock has come to Florida from Texas and is sitting next to Matt when the first attack comes. The author acknowledges that coincidence and continues with the story. But the sheer volume of assassination attempts made me begin to wonder just how long Royal was going to survive without the author resorting to a deus ex machina situation.

And, before the story was over, not just one but two, such devices came into play. First, the bad guys, who have consistently used only boats and vans for two-thirds of the book, suddenly decide to drop a trussed up Royal, Logan and Jock at sea from a helicopter. That didn’t work, of course, not when Logan just so happens to be a retired chopper pilot.

That one is borderline plausible. But the second one, where the condo super just happens to turn the key in Royal’s door lock at the exact moment a bad guy has a gun pointed at Matt’s chest just pushed my already frayed suspension of disbelief right over the edge.

The author redeems himself in the end, however. The final conflict is well played and well written, logical and realistic, no coincidences and no suspension of disbelief needed.

And speaking of the end – a caveat here – as you read, don’t skim or skip over the sections that detail Royal’s visceral responses to the physical charms of several of the female characters. If you do, you will miss the import of the novel’s last sentence.

Cover Art from Goodreads



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