First of State
A C. J. Floyd Mystery by Robert Greer
Review: CJ Floyd gets a first-hand chance to learn what a private investigator does when he looks into the murder of a pawn shop owner in First of State, the eighth mystery in this series by Robert Greer.
It is the autumn of 1971 and CJ (short for Calvin Jefferson) has just returned to Denver after serving two tours of duty as a machine gunner on a patrol boat in Vietnam. Edgy and wracked by nightmares of what he witnessed — and participated in — during the war, he's not much good to anyone. His Uncle Ike, a bail bondsman with whom he lives, wants him to join the business. But CJ can't wrap his arms around a job just yet, instead reverting to a hobby that has always interested him: collecting vintage license plates. A local pawn shop run by Wiley Ames often carried a few and it is here that CJ meets the World War II veteran who manages the store. They strike up an instant friendship, bonding over collectibles and their shared knowledge and appreciation of first of state license plates. When CJ returns the next day, he finds the police surrounding the building, Wiley shot dead. Uncle Ike realizes that CJ needs some focus in his life, and tells him that much of being a bail bondsman means learning to be an investigator, and he uses Wiley's murder as a chance to learn what he can about a man he barely knew.
Prequels can be tricky. After all, readers of a series already know quite a bit about the lead character from previously published (though later chronologically) books … which often begs the question, why bother with prequel. But First of State gets a lot of things right, mostly in terms of a well-told story. The author uses, for example, the political and racial attitudes and agendas of the early 1970s to help shape — but not define — the character CJ becomes. The author also recognizes that having CJ solve Wiley's murder as a novice might be overly contrived; instead, another case is introduced as training, if you will, and about midway through the plot skips forward five years when a more experienced CJ chances upon a link to the now cold case.
First of State is a strong addition to the series, one that gives an interesting historical perspective to the character of CJ Floyd but is also, on its own merits, a first rate murder mystery.
Acknowledgment: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing provided an ARC of First of State for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Frog. Ltd. (Hardcover), October 2008
ISBN-13: 9781583942505; ISBN-10: 1583942505
Astride a Pink Horse
North Atlantic (Hardcover), March 2012
ISBN-13: 9781583943694; ISBN-10: 1583943692
Location(s) referenced in First of State: Denver, Colorado
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First of State by Robert Greer — A C. J. Floyd Mystery
Publisher: North Atlantic
Publication Date: October 2010
List Price: $24.95