Detective J.D. Duncan receives a text message containing a picture too small to make out. She emails it to our main protagonist – and her boyfriend – Matt Royal, so that it can be viewed on a larger screen. What they view is the picture of a young woman seated in a chair holding a copy of that day’s newspaper. On the newspaper is boldly written the words, “Good Morning, Jed.”

The photo looks just like one that kidnappers tend to send out as “proof of life” and, in effect, that is just what it is – proof that Katie Fredrickson is alive. Katie was J.D.’s best friend during college, but they drifted apart as marriages and careers intervened. Then, a year ago, Katie’s husband, Jim, a prominent criminal defense attorney, was murdered and Katie had been presumed killed at the same time. Even though no actual body had been found, too much blood and other bodily fluids had been found to believe that Katie could still be alive. Apparently, however, she is.

An hour or so later, while taking her lunch break on the beach, J.D. and Matt hear emergency sirens, see the drawbridge begin to rise and then witness a Jaguar clip the bridge railing at high speed and sail right over into the Bay. It seems that the now-deceased driver of the car had just killed an old man in a parking lot and was being pursued by one of J.D.’s fellow officers. After being pulled from the bay, the body carries no identification, his prints are not on file and copies of some old German documents are found in the trunk of the Jaguar.

J.D. quickly heads to the condo where the shooting occurred. She discovers that the victim was a WWII survivor and had just shown some pictures from the 1940’s to a fellow historical society member. And he was on his way to see Matt Royal on legal business when the man in the Jaguar called him over to the car and executed him at point blank range with a shot to the forehead.

At this point, J.D. casually checks in with the lead detective on Katie’s case, Sarasota Captain of Detectives, Doug McAllister, and Matt visits Katie’s parents in Winter Park. Both ask about the case but do not tell McAllister or the parents about the text message photo. Within hours of these meetings, J.D. picks up a tail.

It turns out the tail is a PI hired by one Sal Bonino, a local small-time mobster who dabbles in extortion and money-laundering for drug ventures. But Sal Bonino is a ghost. No one has ever seen him. Plenty of people work for him but their only contact is electronic.

After Matt expresses his displeasure to the PI, a thug shows up with the intention of delivering a bone-breaking message to Matt. Bonino apparently wants Matt to be less inquisitive about his activities. However, the only bones that break are those of the thug – one shoulder and both knees – courtesy of Matt and his carry permit.

Then, in short order, J.D.’s murder case intersects with a Sarasota PD case, and the action begins to ratchet up. J.D. discovers one of her witnesses in the shooting of the WWII survivor has been murdered in McAllister’s jurisdiction. McAllister takes the case away from his subordinates and his explanation of the evidence doesn’t add up. And by now, his interpretation of the evidence in the Fredrickson case is beginning to look suspect also.

At this point we have a current murder case, an old murder case, a person coming back from the dead, and a mysterious mafia type as well as a high-ranking police detective who somehow seem to relate to them all. Coincidence after coincidence involving timing, intent, evidence and action occurs. Katie Fredrickson sends two more pictures and Jock Algren flies in. Wave after wave of Bonino’s thugs attempt to kill Matt and J.D. and the body count increases exponentially. Did I mention that Jock has arrived? And the story has only barely begun.

In this 8th and, to date, last entry in the Matt Royal series, H. Terrell Griffin has crafted a highly complex and convoluted tale of corruption, espionage and murder. In fact, it is too complex, too convoluted and contains too many coincidences for the seasoned mystery/thriller reader to be comfortable.

Griffin also seems to dumb down the character of J.D. Duncan. Before she came to Longboat Key, J.D. was the Assistant Homicide Commander in the Miami-Dade PD. She would not have attained that rank were she not a thorough and intelligent investigator. And in each of the earlier books in which she appears, she evidences that thoroughness and that intelligence. Now, all of a sudden, J.D. is automatically saying that she doesn’t think some person is involved or that a piece of information is not important. And she is making these judgments before she fully investigates rather than saying her usual “I don’t know – yet.”

And, suddenly, Griffin has her unable to see the proverbial forest for the proverbial trees. For instance, she knows that Katie has given her a German U-boat reference in a photo but she fails to remember that WWII German documents were found in the first killer’s car. And this is only one of several important mental missteps that she makes. The only thing Griffin seems intent on maintaining in Duncan’s character is her ethical opposition to Jock’s occupation and methodology.

About two-thirds of the way through the book, the muck and the mire of the intertwined plots becomes almost too much. At this point, there are too many bodies – living and dead – to keep straight. There are too many coincidences that require suspension of disbelief for the plotlines to gel properly. And just when it becomes so obvious who Sal Bonino is, you find out you’re wrong. But, believe me, you will never figure out – until you’re told – who kills Sal Bonino.

I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads Program. That fact did not, in any way, influence my opinion of the book.

Cover Art From Goodreads


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