DON’T READ THIS BOOK OUT OF SEQUENCE
Logan Hamilton gets shot in the very first sentence on the very first page of the very first chapter in this fifth entry to H. Terrell Griffin’s Matt Royal series. For those who have been reading this series in sequence, we know exactly how much this incident will upset the proverbial applecart in Matt Royal’s world. But Matt doesn’t know about it; he is out on his boat with his soon-to-be-ex-lover and has actually been gone for about a week.
And because Matt wasn’t home when Abraham Osceola (see “Blood Island”) came knocking, Abraham tries to find Logan. By the next day Abraham is in a coma, Logan has been shot in the chest, Abraham’s local attorney is dead from a shotgun blast and Matt is looking down the barrel of a gun himself. And while Matt survives this round, it becomes a matter of ultimate survival to determine not only who has contracted all this, but why. In one calendar week all is revealed – and what is revealed is the face of evil.
It appears, from the opening chapters, that Griffin is trying to make this entry as much of a standalone novel as possible. There are definitely financial advantages to that tactic. If I had never read Griffin before and if I had not known the contents of the four previous entries, I would have been fooled into that belief. I would have finished the book, probably thinking it little more than the typical action adventure novel, a fine shoot ‘em and stab ‘em, a call-in-the-black-ops-for-backup type of story. And for those readers who are thus fooled, I feel sorry.
In trying to create the image of a standalone, Griffin uses a smooth, generic summarizing technique on past events that make them seem other than what they really are. First, Logan is shot in the chest but the doctor’s extensive examination makes no mention of the chest damage from his heart surgery, which was a large part of the first novel. Secondly, Griffin implies that Abraham Osceola is just a casual acquaintance of Matt Royal, when, in fact, he is directly responsible for Matt staying alive in the second book. I raised an eyebrow at these set-ups and read on.
Then, when Matt tells Jessica (the soon-to-be-ex-lover) that Logan has been shot, she is written as being confused by the telling and basically disinterested, as if Logan means nothing to her. However, in the last novel, Jessica spent several weeks traveling with Logan and Matt, rolling in the blood and gore with Logan, and being repeatedly attacked as she and Logan served as back-up for Matt. Yet Griffin writes the scene as if she doesn’t know Logan at all. Again, I was a bit confused by this approach but I quirked the other eyebrow and read on.
However, when Griffin’s summary implied that the demise of Matt’s career and marriage was a case of basic burnout and growing apart, respectively, I dropped my jaw. If you have read the previous books, you know that neither of those events transpired in that matter. In fact, you know that Griffin has left out the very important fact that Matt’s ex-wife, and the love of his life, was a significant part of the case in the third book and dies in that book. At this point in the story, I was no longer confused; I was appalled at what amounted, at best, to lies of omission and I dropped the book’s rating.
Fortunately, Griffin did not try to rewrite more history by altering his characterizations of Matt, Logan or Jock. Their personalities and their actions in this entry are consistent with the way they were written previously. Griffin has made Matt Royal a very complicated, intelligent and sensitive character. Griffin does not hesitate to let Matt’s internal monologues speak deeply and succinctly to emotional, political and ethical points. And, quite frankly, understanding what has happened to Matt in the previous books is part and parcel to understanding the stance he takes, in this novel, on self-protection, the law and soul-deep evil.
And just as past events in past novels shape the events in this work, the knowledge about Royal’s childhood, brought out in this entry for the first time, will probably shape the events of future works. And so will the entry of the new character, Detective J. D. (Jennifer Diane) Duncan, a cop whose belief in policing by the book is shattered in this novel as completely as Matt’s belief in the law was shattered in the first book.
Regardless of how Griffin glosses over some pretty significant events from previous books, his action sequences are top-notch. They are logically thought out and they rely on planning and intelligent improvisation rather than coincidence, luck and a deus ex machina. And Griffin’s words lead to clear visuals – very clear visuals.
But don’t let those words that read “The Final Days” at the start of the last section lull you into thinking that the phrase is a synonym for “Epilogue.” Don’t skim the section thinking that Griffin is just tying up the loose plot threads as epilogues are want to do. And don’t forget the proverbial advice about the fat lady singing until you actually read the words “The End.”
Cover Art from Goodreads