In the Mail: Bitter Legacy

Bitter Legacy (Matt Royal Mysteries) by H. Terrell Griffin

Booklist Review

Griffin’s Matt Royal novels may be the closest approximation we have today to John D. MacDonald in his pulp-fiction prime. Griffin’s characters are as stark as a man in a trench coat under a street light. They all have backstories that give them depth, and they possess that lovable quality of players in radio-era dramas with which MacDonald infused the characters in his Travis McGee series. In Griffin’s latest, the slightly over-the-top action, also characteristic of MacDonald, begins when Royal’s friend is gunned down in broad daylight by a sniper. The assassin, however, is really stalking Royal, who soon enough must contend with Glock-wielding fisherman and a particularly nasty biker gang. All this takes place in or near Sarasota, Florida, MacDonald’s adopted home town. Griffin captures the mood and tone of the McGee novels nicely, as the amiable Royal dispatches his adversaries with ?lan, eager to resume his casually hedonistic lifestyle. Good fun.

The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan

I am a big fan of the Poke Rafferty series by Timothy Hallinan so I try to keep up with the latest release but for various reasons I have been falling behind.

My mother-in-law bought me the latest in the series, The Queen of Patpong, and I read it in early September. But work and life intervened and I never managed to post a review here. Allow me to rectify that now.

I won’t leave you in suspense. I loved the book as usual. But it wasn’t neccesarily a foregone conclusion. This book is different as a big chunk of the story centers on and is told from the perspective of Rose rather than the central character Poke Rafferty.

As in the earlier books, however, this one places the reader smack in the middle of the heat and intrigue of Bangkok/Thailand. Hallinan offers an exciting plot but also gripping insight into the plight of young women forced to move to the city and act as pawns in the sex trade in a desperate attempt to make money and save their families.

This social drama is seamlessly weaved into the story so that it doesn’t come off as preachy or pedantic but simply reality.

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Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten

I will confess that I was initially drawn to Saving Max because my son’s name is Max. I noticed the name over at NetGalley and decided it was worth a read.

Here is publisher’s synopsis:

Max Parkman—autistic and whip-smart, emotionally fragile and aggressive—is perfect in his mother’s eyes. Until he’s accused of murder.

Attorney Danielle Parkman knows her teenage son Max’s behavior has been getting worse—using drugs and lashing out. But she can’t accept the diagnosis she receives at a top-notch adolescent psychiatric facility that her son is deeply disturbed. Dangerous.

Until she finds Max, unconscious and bloodied, beside a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death.

Trapped in a world of doubt and fear, barred from contacting Max, Danielle clings to the belief that her son is innocent. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her son really a killer?

With the justice system bearing down on them, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth, no matter what it is. She’ll do whatever it takes to find the killer and to save her son from being destroyed by a system that’s all too eager to convict him.

I was initially frustrated. The lead character, Max’s mom Danielle, wasn’t a very sympathetic character to me. She seemed pushy and impatient and grating in many ways. This, and the fact that I was reading it in short spurts most of the time, made the story languish.

But once you get to the bloody scene in the hospital things begin to pick up and there are a number of twists and turns that keep you guessing. And of course, Danielle is vindicated to some degree (I won’t spoil it any more than that).

In the end I found it a story where the “hook” is greater than the prose – the creative storyline better than the writing that describes it. Once the story picked up some steam it was entertaining for the most part – I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened – but it left you kind flat at the end.