In his latest CJ Floyd offering, author Robert Greer takes the reader and CJ back to autumn 1971 in a prequel to the popular series. CJ has just returned from Vietnam suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and wondering where he fits into life in his home town of Denver.
Just before he left for Vietnam, CJ spontaneously pilfered a rare antique license plate from the display case at GI Joes, and hid it behind some loose tiles at the pawnshop. Now, he hopes to retrieve the plate if it is still there. He unexpectedly finds a soul mate in forty-six-year-old World War II vet and amputee Wiley Ames who has worked at GI Joes for over twenty years. Although CJ didn’t find the plate where he had left it, the two bonded over similar wartime experiences.
When Ames is later found murdered at the pawnshop along with his business partner Quan Lee Chin, CJ’s tenuous world is rocked. Search as he might, he is unable to find clues as to who killed his new-found friend.
In the meantime, CJ’s Uncle Ike sets him up in his bail bondsman business as he also works as a bounty hunter. He had made himself a home living in an apartment attached to his uncle’s business. Uncle Ike patiently teaches CJ the ropes of his business.
Five years later, CJ again gets pumped up about finding Ames killer when one of Ames’ antique license plates is found at a Denver flea market. Although those around CJ warn him about getting involved once more on a fruitless quest, he insists on moving forward. Reluctantly, family and friends help him each in their own way.
First of State brings the series back to the basics as it allows fans to see how CJ got his start in the business that has carried him through the first eight novels. Greer provides a unique insight into what made CJ the person he is – a first-rate investigator still smoking his beloved cheroots and carefully considering clues that lead him to solve difficult cases. As this is the first CJ Floyd novel I have read, this seems a good place to begin.
Greer writes with great detail allowing the reader to feel the gritty reality of what is occurring in the story. There is an emotional depth to this novel rarely seen in mysteries that allow readers to become engaged in the plot, rooting for their favorite characters, and feeling like they are part of the action in each scene.
The characters seem like real people with all their quirks and flaws. To me, that is brilliant writing and probably one of the main reasons this series is so popular.
A special thank you goes to North Atlantic Books for providing a complimentary copy of this book. If you are interested in purchasing First of State, it is available at Amazon.com as are the other novels in this series.