FIRST OF STATE by Robert Greer

Book Quote:

“Chin took three steps backward into the alley as Ames stepped through the doorway. Scanning the alley and eyeing the box Chin was carrying, Ames said, ‘First time, last time, Chin. I don’t know how I ever let you talk me into this deal in the first place. Now let’s get the hell back in the store. You can never be too careful. Besides—’

“A single shot from a semiautomatic handgun cut Ames’s response short. Collapsing to his knees, he fell face forward into a pothole near the alley’s edge. The jagged asphalt edge cut a three-inch-long gash in his forehead as blood oozed from the pencil-eraser-sized entry wound in his neck and his lower jaw twitched. Eight seconds later both of his eyes rolled back in his head, and Wiley Ames gasped a final truncated breath.”

Book Review:

Review by Chuck Barksdale  (OCT 24, 2010)

In First of State, Robert Greer goes back in time to the early career of his main character, C.J. Floyd. The series started in the 1990s, but this book begins in the fall of 1971 when 20 year old Calvin Jefferson Floyd returns to Denver, Colorado to live with his bail bondsman uncle Ike Floyd, after serving two years in the Navy in Viet Nam. This very enjoyable book not only provides details about how Floyd became a successful bail bondsman and part-time private investigator, but also provides a great mix of characters and mystery as Floyd searches for several years to find the murder of pawnshop worker and collector Wiley Ames.

One of the first places C.J. Floyd visits after returning to Denver is to GI Joes, a lower downtown Denver pawnshop. He had hidden some antique license plates that he had stolen from the store just before leaving for Viet Nam and hoped to get them back to add to his prized collection. Unfortunately, during his absence, the store has been remodeled and his hiding spot is no longer there. However, he does meet and befriend 46-year old recovering alcoholic World War II veteran and avid collector, Wiley Ames. Because of their similar interests and backgrounds, despite their difference in ages, Wiley is able to understand C.J. Floyd’s difficulty in adjusting to his return from war. C.J. enjoys his conversations with Wiley and after only a short time feels they could be friends.

However, shortly thereafter, C.J. Floyd finds out that Ames is murdered outside the store. Because of the quick friendship that developed between Ames and Floyd, C.J. feels obligated to solve the murder, especially since he still has not adjusted to life back in Denver. He spends weeks gathering information with the help of his friends and his uncle. Unfortunately, despite his dedication, he is forced to put the investigation aside and work with his uncle.

C.J.’s interest in the murder returns in 1976 when he finds a license plate that he believes was part of Wiley Ames’ collection that Wiley showed him in 1971. C.J suspects the seller of the license plate may be guilty or at least know something of the murder so he starts there in hopes of gathering the information to finally solve the murder. This leads C.J. to Wiley Ames niece who inherited much from Wiley Ames and others that hold the clues to the murder.

Much of the book surrounds C.J.’s relationship with his uncle Ike Floyd. Ike, who raised C.J. since he was two years old, takes C.J. into his bail bondman and bounty hunter business and encourages him to learn the business as he thinks this will help C.J. Although he keeps it to himself, Ike also knows he needs help in the business because his deteriorating health is keeping him from doing the job that has led to be as successful as he has been. Ike has struggled for years with alcohol addiction but despite that has run a very good bail bondsman business and the only one run by an African-American. The interactions and relationship between C.J. and Ike is the best part of the book and goes a long way to providing a better understanding of why C.J. is the way he is.

Although I’ve read one previous book by Robert Greer (Heat Shock (2003)), this is the first book in the C.J. Floyd series that I have read. Since this is a prequel, I felt this would not be a bad place to start. I certainly enjoyed the book, especially reading about C.J. Floyd’s early days learning his trade and his relationship with his uncle. However, I did miss out on what I should be looking for as new characters were introduced in the book. I could not appreciate the “that’s how they met” moment or appreciate why or how a relationship exists in the present day. I’m not saying that to discourage new readers but to suggest that fans of the series will get more out of the book and encourage them to read it. Of course, a few key characters in First of State, are not in future books and new readers will be more surprised (and disappointed) when they don’t survive this book.

After reading First of State, I read a few chapters of The Devil’s Hatband, the first book in the C.J. Floyd series. Although written fourteen years prior to First of State, much of the same style and approach are present. In both books, Greer spends much time introducing the reader to what appears to be a main character, only to have that person murdered. This is an interesting approach that Greer uses that makes the reader really want C.J. Floyd to solve the murder and find the murderer. I’m certainly looking forward to finishing this book and many others in this enjoyable series.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 2 readers
PUBLISHER: North Atlantic Books (October 19, 2010)
REVIEWER: Chuck Barksdale
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

Heat Shock


C.J. Floyd Mystery Series


Short Stories:

October 24, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Sleuths Series, US Frontier West

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