Thursday, January 4, 2018

Showcase - Vindication - H. Terrell Griffin Oceanview Publishing

Today I'm featuring old friend Terrell Griffin's #11 in his Matt Royal mysteries, Vindication.
Enjoy!


ISBN-13: 9781608092765
Publisher: Oceanview
Release Date: 1-2-2018
Length: 320pp
Buy It: Amazon/B&N/Kobo/IndieBound
ADD TO: GOODREADS
Overview:
In this John Grisham style mystery, Matt Royal, the retired lawyer-turned-beach-bum is called back into the courtroom to defend his girlfriend J. D. Duncan’s Aunt Esther, who lives in the sprawling North Central Florida retirement community of The Villages. A best-selling author has been murdered after a book signing and Aunt Esther has been arrested. Matt has a history with the local sheriff—one which may not bode well for his client.
Matt reluctantly suits up for the courtroom and J.D. takes a leave from the police department to go undercover. A bizarre specter from the past haunts their investigation every step of the way. As they delve further into the case, the pieces of the puzzle refuse to fall into any kind of coherent pattern. Jock Algren arrives with his special skill set to expose the real murderer and free Aunt Esther, but to no avail. Not until the case goes to trial and the evidence is revealed does the truth emerge—and a strange kind of justice prevails.


Praise:

A case of literary theft propels Griffin’s appealing 11th outing for semi-retired Longboat Key, Fla., lawyer Matt Royal… [a] well-plotted whodunit.- Publishers Weekly

“[Matt Royal’s] efforts to connect the jigsaw pieces make for fascinating reading.”- Booklist

A singular treat! From the delicious and varied dialogue, to just the right amount of well-placed one-liners, this story delivers… Will grab the reader’s attention with its surprise curve balls, and thrill them with the author’s capability to surf the waves of anticipation and excitement with ease.- InD'Tale Magazine


Excerpt courtesy Oceanview Publishing––

PROLOGUE
The woman’s body lay face down on the concrete dance floor of Paddock Square. The bullet had punctured a small hole in her blouse and burrowed deep into her back. The thin garment was stained by the trickle of blood that had seeped out in the brief moment that had elapsed between the bullet’s entry and the instant of her death. A young man was bent over the woman, his fingers probing in vain for a pulse in her neck.
Except for the body and the man, the square was empty. Soon, the solitude would give way to the joggers, walkers, and cyclists who would begin to appear, retirees getting their exercise in hopes of extending the lives they enjoyed in this unique place. A few hours later, the stores and restaurants that defined the square would open for business.
The March sun was beginning its quotidian climb into the Florida sky, its rays reaching silently for the roofs of the buildings that composed the eastern boundary of the town square known as Brownwood. The air was clean and a little chilled and carried the strident calls of unhappy crows that had settled on the roof of a nearby structure.
The young man stood, his face drawn by the sadness that penetrated
to his bones. He had once been a soldier and had seen more death than most people see in a lifetime. Most of the dead were young, and this woman wasn’t old. Early sixties maybe, perhaps younger. A waste. Each body was one more straw on the proverbial camel’s back and someday the final straw would find its way into his psyche. Then what? He shook off the feeling of dread and used his cell phone to call 

CHAPTER 1
Macon, Georgia – Late 1970s

Filtered searchlight beams painted the building in soft pastels as they roamed across its face. Other beacons were pointed at the sky, their light dissipating high in the darkness of a summer evening. The Doric columns that lined the front and sides of the classical revival building added a touch of dignity to the evening’s events.
Men dressed in suits and ties and women in long dresses were streaming through the front doors. The discordant sounds of an orchestra tuning up slipped from the building and created a pleasant din as they conflated with the murmur of conversation among those waiting on the sidewalk. Saturday evening at the City Auditorium in Macon, Georgia, the night of the final round in the annual Miss Georgia Pageant. A sense of excitement and anticipation permeated the air and infused the guests with a sense of well-being.
Backstage, fifty young women from all over Georgia were preparing for the big night, the night the winner would be chosen. It had been a grueling few days that started on Monday when they began the process of interviewing privately with the judges. The contestants would receive scores from one to ten in each of the events, and the women knew the interview would count for twenty-five percent of the total score for the week. It was important that each made a good impression and they dressed and conducted themselves in a manner that would hopefully propel them toward the finals. Every little bit counted.
Tuesday had been the talent contest that counted for fifty percent of the scoring for the pageant. It was by far the most important event of the week. Miss Berrien County, Sarah Kyle, had won that competition hands down. She had sung Gilda’s aria from Rigoletto and nailed it. One judge was heard to mumble that even Giuseppe Verdi would have given her a standing ovation.
There was no surprise when Sarah was announced as the winner of the talent competition. Because that one event counted for fifty percent of the total points, the money was on Sarah to win the whole thing and be crowned Miss Georgia.
Sarah’s mother had died when she was twelve and she and her two older brothers had been raised by her dad, a man who farmed a small acreage near the Berrien County seat of Nashville, deep in South Georgia, some fifty miles north of the Florida state line. There was not much spare money and as the boys graduated from high school, they went to work on the larger farms that dotted the area.
Sarah had shown a talent for singing as a young girl and would often sing solos at the small church the family attended. One day, when Sarah was in her early teens, the organist from the church stopped by the family’s small farmhouse to speak with Sarah’s father. This gentle man taught music at nearby Valdosta State College and donated his services as organist to the church. He’d watched Sarah grow into a young teenager and recognized a raw talent that he thought could be coached into greatness with the right voice teacher.
The organist had a colleague in the music department at Valdosta State who taught voice and he offered to arrange a meeting, an audition really, for Sarah. If the teacher accepted her, there would be a cost for the lessons, not much, but an amount that would stretch the budget of Sarah’s father. Over the years that followed, her dad had given up any luxuries he might have enjoyed in order to provide Sarah with money for the voice lessons. When she passed her sixteenth birthday, she found part-time work as a waitress in a café across the street from the courthouse in Nashville and helped her dad pay for the lessons.
Sarah began to toy with the idea that she wanted to go to college. Nobody in her family had ever done that or even contemplated it, but she wanted something better than the future she saw for herself. If she stayed in South Georgia, her destiny was pretty much limited to marrying a farmer or factory worker and spending the rest of her life within a few miles of her birthplace.
Money was the problem. College was expensive and even with a part-time job Sarah didn’t see how she could afford it. Then her voice coach told her about the Miss Georgia Pageant and the scholarship money the winner would receive and the personal appearance fees she could earn during her reign as Miss Georgia. It would be enough to pay her college expenses for a year or two and she would have a shot at the Miss America title and enough scholarship money to finish a degree.
The coach assured Sarah that she had come so far with her music, that she would have a good chance of becoming Miss Georgia, since half the points needed to win were based on the talent competition. The coach was certain that no other young woman in Georgia had the vocal range and control that Sarah did.
First, Sarah had to win a local contest, so she entered the Miss Berrien County Pageant sponsored by the local Jaycees. Given that hers was a talent not ever seen before in South Georgia and the fact that she had grown into an eighteen-year-old beauty, she walked away with the title.
Her next stop was Macon and the Miss Georgia contest. One of the Jaycees, a local lawyer and banker named Bill Perry, offered to pay the wardrobe and other incidental expenses that Sarah would incur in Macon. Her hotel room and meals would be paid by the pageant.
Bill Perry paid for Sarah to go to Bradenton, Florida, to sit for David Bartley, a well-known photographer specializing in pageant headshots. Sarah would need a number of those for the official Miss Georgia program book and maybe for the press, especially if she won. It was important that Sarah have a St. John knit suit for the interview process, preferably royal blue, and a white Ada Duckett swimsuit. Nobody ever accused these young women of being original, but everyone was afraid to deviate from the norm set by the powers
that be, whoever they were.
Female chaperones chosen from a roster kept by the pageant staff were assigned to small groups of contestants. On the day of her arrival in Macon, Sarah was introduced to her group’s chaperone and her hotel roommate, a young woman named Polly Norris, who reigned as Miss Atlanta Northside. At twenty-two, Polly was four years older than Sarah and was participating in her second Miss Georgia Pageant. The year before she had not placed in the final ten, but had gained some valuable experience in both the competitions and the politics that played out just under the surface of the pageant
Polly told Sarah that she was from a wealthy family who lived in Buckhead, a very upscale neighborhood in Atlanta. She’d gone to the best private schools and had graduated from Agnes Scott College a month before the pageant. Sarah was taken with Polly’s sophistication and impressed that her parents had given her a tour of Europe the summer before as a consolation prize for not winning Miss Georgia in her first try.
As the final competition got underway, all fifty of the women, dressed in their evening gowns, were on the stage. They came one by one to the microphone at center stage and introduced themselves. They all knew that the top ten had already been chosen and would be announced in a few minutes. Each was holding out hope that she would be among the select group. Nerves were stretched thin, but each one knew the process. She’d do her best, smile and show some personality at the microphone. And if she didn’t win, she’d congratulate the fortunate ten and go back to her real life, carrying with her a memory of a glorious week in a gracious city on the edge of the Georgia piedmont.
As the contestants left the microphone, they returned to the back of the stage and formed a semi-circle. The mistress of ceremonies, a local television personality who hosted an afternoon show devoted to women’s issues, walked onto the stage, told a couple of corny jokes, congratulated all the participants, and announced the ten semi-finalists, each of whom stepped forward amid applause from the audience and the other contestants. The curtain closed and the audience took an intermission while the semi-finalists, which included both Sarah Kyle and Polly Norris, left to change into swimsuits for the next competition, which would be followed by another talent show.
This year, Polly’s talent had been baton twirling, and no one thought she had placed very high in that part of the competition. She had been announced as the winner of the swimsuit contest, and most of the girls thought Polly must have done very well in the interviews in order to make the semi-finals. After all, the swimsuit only counted for ten percent of the overall score. The other events, evening gown on Wednesday and Monday’s interview together counted for forty percent of the overall score. The winners of those events weren’t announced, but if Polly had done well in the interview and been awarded the full twenty-five percent and had won the evening gown event for fifteen percent, added to her swimsuit win, she would have fifty percent of the score, equal to the fifty percent that Sarah had won in the talent contest. Of course, this calculation didn’t take into account that points would have been awarded to several contestants in each event, even though they didn’t win. And some of the others might have won either or both of the evening gown and interview events. That must have been the case in order for the eight who were not announced as winners of the other two events to end up as semi-finalists. It was impossible to figure, even for the math major from Georgia Tech who was one of the semi-finalists. Just too many unknowns.
Now, the contestants would appear in the swimsuit competition, followed by a repeat of the talent they’d performed on Tuesday night, and concluding with the evening gown event. The top five would then be selected and out of that small group, the new Miss Georgia would finally emerge. Even in face of the math that led some to believe that this was now a contest between Sarah Kyle and Polly Norris, each of the semi-finalists still had hope of making the final five. If they survived, they would be interviewed again, this time in front of the entire audience, and then each judge would score the contestants on the events, and the winner would be announced.

* * *

Sarah Kyle did not make the final five. Polly Norris, the twirler, did. Sarah smiled and hugged each of the remaining five and walked off the stage. She went to the dressing room where many of the original fifty contestants were changing into their street clothes and getting ready to board the bus back to the hotel. Some were in tears.
Several of the women came over to commiserate with Sarah. “I can’t believe you didn’t at least make the finals,” Miss Ware County said. “You won the talent event, for God’s sake. How can they not put you in the top five?”
Sarah shook her head. “I guess I got my hopes up too high. Maybe I didn’t do as well with the aria tonight. We’ll never know, but I’ve had the experience of my life.”
“You can try again next year,” Miss Savannah said.
“No. I’m done,” Sarah said. “I needed the scholarship money for college. I didn’t get it, so I won’t be going to college. I guess I’ll see about full time work at the diner in Nashville.”
“Who do you think will win?” asked Miss University of Georgia? “We’ll know in a few minutes,” another woman said. “I’m betting
on Miss Carrollton. I heard she was runner-up in the talent event.” “Polly Norris,” Miss Atlanta said.
“Not a chance,” Miss Augusta said. “I don’t know how she even won the swimsuit event. She’s kind of chunky, if you ask me.”
Sarah laughed. “Come on, ladies. We have to be good losers. If Polly wins, it’ll be because the judges thought she was the best person to represent our state in the Miss America pageant.”
“That, and the fact that her dad’s a big deal in Georgia politics,” Miss Atlanta said. “I bet he knows the judges.”
“Maybe so,” Sarah said, “but what’s done is done. It’s out of our control.”

* * *

Miss Atlanta had been right. Polly Norris won the crown and would spend the next year as Miss Georgia. Sarah went back to Berrien County and resumed her life. She wasn’t too unhappy, although there were days when her feet hurt and her back ached from waiting tables, and her thoughts would turn briefly to what might have been. How would her life be different if she’d gone to college, studied voice, made it big in the entertainment field? She’d daydream a bit before snapping back to reality and laughing at herself. She might have worked hard and earned her degree but never made it as a singer. What then? She’d have ended up in Nashville waitressing in a diner

and singing in church on Sundays.
Maybe the degree would have given her entrée to the business world where a good education and inquiring mind could have propelled her to great success. But she had come to understand that sometimes life comes at you hard and you just have to adjust. Maybe she had made wrong choices along the way, choices she didn’t even know she had, and had thereby doomed herself to waiting tables. Maybe one’s life is preordained and nothing you can do will change the trajectory. Maybe pipe dreams are just that. Pipe dreams.
Sarah had not seen Polly after the pageant. She spent the night in the hotel room alone and assumed that Polly was with her family. The next morning, Bill Perry drove Sarah and her father home to Nashville and Sarah eased back into the rhythms of life in a small town in South Georgia.
It wasn’t all bad, she told herself. She was surrounded by friends and family, people she’d known her entire life and a majority of the customers in the diner were locals, most of whom she knew.
The local library was full of books about the larger world, and Sarah devoured them with a rapaciousness found only in the hungriest of minds. Over the years, her reading provided her with an education that would be the envy of most college graduates. Her knowledge of current events, literature, philosophy, history, and other liberal arts was wide and deep.
Sarah Kyle was a happy woman, but still, over the years, the “what ifs” would pop unbidden into her consciousness. What if she’d won? What if she’d become Miss Georgia, maybe even Miss America? What if her singing career had taken off ? How would a college degree have changed her life? And she would shrug and tuck those thoughts carefully back into the recesses of her mind, because all the comparisons did was demean the only life she had.

The Series




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Meet H Terrell:H. Terrell Griffin, a former board-certified civil trial lawyer and soldier, is the award-winning and best-selling author of ten Matt Royal mysteries set on the Florida Gulf Coast island of Longboat Key, and now Vindication, which takes place in The Villages in Central Florida. He and his wife, Jean, divide their time between their homes in Maitland, Florida, and Longboat Key, Florida.




14 comments:

  1. I sure like the Grisham style so

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  2. Thanks for sharing the excerpt Debbie. This sounds like a great whodunit.

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  3. I've enjoyed many of his novels, but I haven't read the last few. It may be time to catch up on them this year!

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  4. It definitely caught my attention. I'm always looking for more mystery series to follow. I'll have to give these a go at some point.

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  5. I think this sounds like a good kne, especially from the except.

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  6. This sounds like my kind of story. Love a good mystery and this seems to fit the bill. Thanks for sharing, Debbie.

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