“Vindication” is book eleven in H. Terrell Griffin’s Matt Royal Mystery series. It is not necessary to have read any of the previous books to enjoy this one. This is the first book I have read in the series, and I did not realize there was a series until I finished the book and wanted to read more.
A woman’s body is face down on the concrete dance floor of Paddock Square. So it begins, and it does not end without many questions but few answers.
Curiously, the first two chapters seem to be almost accidentally slipped in from another book, but do not skip them. Chapter three opens with “retired” lawyer Matt Royal’s first person narrative as he relaxes in Longboat Key, Florida.
In a story so relatable, that Griffin must have been spying on people I know, a member of a mystery book club has been arrested for murder. The club meets in a local bookstore, and the victim is an author visiting for a book signing. The accused suspect happens to be the aunt of Matt Royal’s long-time girlfriend and local police detective J.D. Duncan, so Royal is asked to “come out of retirement” and take the case. Along the way, Jock Algren, Matt’s friend and one of the best agents in America’s Intelligence community, who is visiting, unwinding, and relaxing in Longboat Key is asked to help out.
The story unfolds with Matt’s narrative alternating with the third person story line. Matt’s first person sections are filled with musing about the progress of the case and compelling insight into legal procedure and why he is doing what he is doing. The third person sections provide needed background and views of events from other perspectives. The pace is steady, and the alternating points of view give depth and add interest.
The characters drive this story, and these characters are intense, realistic, and hilarious. When Aunt Esther Higgins, retired schoolteacher, faces taking a guilty plea bargain or spending months in jail awaiting trial, she reassures Matt that she will be fine because:
“Years ago the school system that I worked for got in a jam and had to assign me to an all-boys junior high school to teach English …..You tell that prosecutor that if I could handle that for nine months, I can damn sure handle a jail cell for six months. No deals.”
Matt laments that the legal “process is mentally exhausting and not nearly as much fun as fishing.” He does relish the Florida weather, especially on “one of those days when everybody calls their relatives in the still chilly north to rag them a little about the gorgeous days that a Florida spring produces.” Moreover, where else would a suspect be called “a pusillanimous puissant” or a traffic-congested road labeled “Malfunction Junction”?
Despite the hilarity, a lot of investigation goes on, and dead-ends and false leads abound. Many secrets from the past rear their ugly heads but do not seem to lead anywhere. In true Perry Mason style, everything finally falls into place during the trial in unexpected ways and a peculiar justice finally prevails
I received a copy of “Vindication” from Oceanview Publishing, H. Terrell Griffin and NetGalley. This is an entertaining book to read.