December 5, 2015

It’a My Vacation Reading Month

As I take my vacation from reading crime fiction, mostly to rest my mind from the fictional violence, I plan to read two novels.

The first is Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth, his second novel, which he was still working on when he died in 1994. His literary executor, with the help Ellison’s widow, edited the novel, which was published 1999. The title is a reference to June 19, 1865, the date abolition of slavery was announced in Texas. The date became Juneteenth, a holiday many of us African Americans celebrate on June 19.  

The second novel is Edgar Allan Poe’s Narrative of A. Gordon Pym. I don’t remember why I chose Poe’s novel. I think it’s because I read most of his short stories but neglected to read the novel during my Poe phase.

My family and I wish all of you a MERRY CHRISTMAS.

November 21, 2015

Deadly Research

Published in 2000 between The Devil’s Backbone (1998) and Resurrecting Langston Blue (2005), Robert Greer's novel, LIMITED TIME, isn’t a volume in the CJ Floyd series. CJ Floyd plays an important part in the plot, but his long time friend from their days in Vietnam, Dr. Henry Bales, raises the tension. CJ has Henry’s back in this exciting scientific research thriller.

The body of microbiologist Neil Cardashian is found in the city waste dump in a lab freezer belonging to microbiologist Dr. Theresa Gilliam. Cardashian was supposedly trying to develop an anti-aging pill based on the telomerase enzyme. Dr. Gilliam, the co-investigator, noting he was not following protocol, was trying to determine what he was up to. Homicide detective Lieutenant Clifford Menton considers her the prime suspect because, he thinks, she will benefit  if the project is successful. 

During Menton’s intensive questioning, Henry, head of pathology and chief of diagnostic molecular biology at the University of Colorado, gets in his face and is in danger of being arrested himself. Dr. Gilliam was his mentor when he was studying medicine and is his close friend. Lucky for him attorney Julie Madrid, CJ’s ex-secretary, is present. She calls CJ to come calm Henry down. Once he has calmed Henry down and persuaded him to leave, CJ turns his attention to Dr. Gilliam, who hires him to find Cardashian’s killer. 

Dr. Gilliam is eliminated as a suspect when she is found dead sitting in her wheelchair in her lab. Henry vows to find her killer, but CJ persuades him to look for a motive that might have something to do with Cardashian’s research and leave the dangerous killer hunting to him.

In Cardashian’s office, CJ finds a box of Cuban cigars. Beneath the cigars are pearl-sized gel beads. Henry’s analysis reveals the gel beads are a telomerase concoction. CJ suggests maybe Cardashian was doing something other than trying to develop a longevity pill.

From the coroner’s attendant, a friend of CJ’s, Henry and CJ learn the autopsies of the brains of Leah Tanner, an olympic swimmer on the University of Colorado swim team, and Cardashian revealed pea-sized nodules. Henry concludes that both died from brain cancer due to overdoses of the telomerase gel beads. 

Their joint investigation soon leads them to four possible suspects involved with the university swim team: Leah’s boyfriend Anthony Montella, Leah’s father Nathan Tanner, the swim team doctor, David Patterson, and the coach Ellis Drake. CJ eliminates all in the death of Theresa because none had a reasonable motive. Henry refuses to accept that Anthony Rontella couldn’t be the killer because he had the most to lose since he was peddling the telomerase drug to coaches. Henry goes to his ranch in La Plata County with his lady friend Dr. Sandra Artorio to do more work on the telomerase puzzle.

What Henry and CJ don’t know is a mysterious voice on the phone using the name Sweets is the master mind behind whatever Cardashian was doing. Sweets orders Jamie Lee Custus, a hit woman working for her, to eliminate Henry and Dr. Arotrio who are close to solving the telomerase puzzle. She follows them to Henry’s ranch and attacks them. CJ and a neighboring rancher arrive just in time to rescue Henry and Sandra. Right behind them is Sheriff Booker Reardon. He takes over the situation and learns from Custus that she was to meet Sweets at the airport in Durango, Colorado. The sheriff agrees to let Henry and CJ watch the proceedings at the airport but warns them not to interfere. Henry is the most important person in the group when they arrive at the airport because he is the only one who can identify Sweets.

As I struggled to write this review, my critical antenna began to zero in on what bothered me about the novel. The structure is not tight as it should be. Although I didn’t mentioned them in the summary, scenes set in Cuba designed to set up the cigar box clue and identify relationships among some of the Cuban characters  could have been left out without disturbing the flow of the plot.

October 12, 2015

A Novel in Three Acts

Robert Greer’s eighth novel, First of State, in his CJ Floyd series, is the first prequel novel I’ve ever read. It made me wonder why the series didn’t begin with this prequel novel that describes how CJ Floyd became a bail bondsman, bounty hunter, and amateur detective. As I read the novel, I didn’t discover anything new about his personality that Greer had not already revealed in the previous seven novels. 

First of State, divided into three parts, reads like the first novel of an author trying to make sure the plot has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Part 1 CJ returns home to Denver in 1971 after serving two tours in Vietnam as a Gunners Mate First Class manning a .50 caliber machine gun on a patrol boat in the Mekong River Delta. He struggles to adjust to civilian life. With the help of Wiley Ames, an ex-alcoholic who lost an arm in WWII, he Partially rids himself of the Vietnam nightmares. 

His Uncle Ike also helps. He asks CJ to join him in the bail bond business and teaches him how to be a bounty hunter and investigator. CJ applies the investigative lessons in finding out who killed Billy Larkin, the son of Ike’s longtime lady friend Marguerite. CJ also feels an obligation to investigate the murder of Ames and Ames’s friend Quan Lee Chin. The killings are referred to as the GI Joe’s murders because the two men were killed behind GI Joe’s Pawnshop where Ames worked.

In Part 2, five years later, CJ has settled into civilian life. He becomes the protector of the residences in the black community of Five Points where he grew up. If anyone has a problem with bad guys, he steps in to correct the situation. He receives no money for his services until Willis Sundee, a prominent businessman, asks him to talk to a man named Walt Reasoner from whom Willis and other Five Points small businessmen buy their produce. Reasoner is shaking down small businessmen in Five Points. Since the large produce suppliers refuse to sell to the small businesses because it’s unprofitable, Reasoner is the only supplier. He raises his prices, and anyone who refuses to pay could go out of business, end up seriously injured or dead. Willis offers to pay CJ to stop the unscrupulous Reasoner, and CJ accepts the job. He still thinks about the GI Joe’s murders. 

Part 3 continues the main plot with CJ pursuing the GI Joe’s murders against the advice of his friend Rosie Weeks and Uncle Ike. Petey Greene, CJ’s friend from grade school, is killed because he has been following and watching Gaylord Marquee for CJ. He suspects Marquee might be involved in the murders. CJ now has three murders to solve: Wiley Ames, Quan Lee Chin, and Petey Greene. Petey’s mother Syrathia pays him $500 to find Petey’s killer. CJ feels he owes it to Petey to catch his killer and doesn’t want to take her money. However, a look from Uncle Ike says take the money because not to do so would insult her. The clue to the murders is in the pictures Petey took of a Quonset hut belonging to Gaylord Marquee.

Bland describes First of State. The novel had no emotional effect on me. Nothing is unexpected. Everything that happens is predictable. Parts 1 and 2 are mini-plots that develop the character of CJ Floyd but add nothing to the main plot. In the first two parts CJ is advised to give up his search for the GI Joe’s murderers, which keeps the main plot in the reader’s mind but doesn’t necessarily advance the plot. CJ never explains why he feels obligated to solve the murders of a man he knew for only two days and a man he knew not at all. 

CJ is a collector, especially of state license plates. The title, First of State, refers to the first license plates issued in a state.

As always, I suggest you read the novel and draw your own conclusion. You might enjoy it even if I didn’t.

September 5, 2015

Human Predators

In the bird kingdom, large predator birds prey on smaller birds. The same holds true in the human species. Human predators prey on the vulnerable in our society for their personal gain. In Blackbird, Farewell, the seventh novel in his CJ Floyd series, Robert Greer explores how young, vulnerable athletic phenoms are always in danger of being corrupted by unscrupulous individuals who falsely display an interest in their careers.

Shortly after signing a 3.5 million dollar contract with the Denver Nuggets who picked him second in the NBA draft and a 4 million dollar shoe contract with Nike, 22-year-old basketball phenom Shandell Bird is shot and killed. Two-seconds later the reporter he was meeting on an outdoor basketball court is also killed. 

The bail bondsman and sometime amateur detective CJ Floyd and his new bride, his long time girl friend, Mavis Sundee, are on their honeymoon in Hawaii. In his absence, Damion Madrid, the 22-year-old son of  CJ’s former secretary, decides to find out who murdered his best friend since grad school. He also wants to disprove the rumor that Shandell sold performance-enhancing drugs and was involved in a point-shaving scheme while attending Colorado State University.  An inexperienced 22-year-old wannabe detective trying to be like his idol CJ Floyd naturally puts himself in a dangerous situation. 

Suspects are plentiful. Shandell’s father, Leon Bird, who left Shandell and his mother when Shandell was only 6-years-old, shows up for some father-son bonding. He will receive $250,000 from the insurance policy he persuaded Shandell to take out. 

Shandell’s white girlfriend Connie Eastland saw him as “her little lapdog,” and “booster rocket to the good life.” She helped the gentleman mobster Asalon Garrett persuade Shandell to shave points on some games. 

Professor Alicia Phillips, a sports psychologist, treated Shandell. She was planning to use the information about him and other athletes to write a tell-all book about college athletes, hoping for a bestseller. 

Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Wordell Epps also was hoping to profit from the book. 

Asalon Garrett doesn’t want Shandell to reveal his illegal gambling operation. 

Rodney Sands, the CSU trainer, persuaded Shandell to be his mule delivering drugs to Leotis Hawkins to sell in the Five Points neighborhood. 

Jackie Woodson, point guard on the CSU team, was in on the point-shaving scheme and used performance-enhancing drugs given to him by Sands. 

Each one of the suspects expected to profited off Shandell’s fame. So, why would any one of them want to kill the proverbial goose is the question Damion must answer if he is to find the killer.

Although he learns surprising things about his best friend Shandell nothing differentiates Damion from other headstrong 22-year-olds. This makes him a generic character, and no major character in a novel should be generic. Minor characters yes, major no. I confess I’m biased when it comes to 22-year-olds with little experience in life investigating murder. Such young men don’t make good detectives. 

I enjoyed the novel despite my bias and the fact I identified the killer about halfway through. Greer’s deft handling of a very sensitive subject kept me reading. To say what the subject is would be a spoiler for it would reveal the secret that drives the plot.

In TV series when the central character gets married, you know that is the end of the series. This may also be true of a detective series in novels. If so, CJ's marriage to Mavis signals an end to the CJ Floyd series. However, Greer published a prequel, First of State, so I guess it’s fair to say the eighth novel is the last in the series. Yes, I’ll review it next month.

August 1, 2015


I finished the novel Death and Mr Pickwick, and you can read my review on the SleuthSayers blog. In September, I’ll return to my reviews of Robert Greer’s novels featuring his amateur detective, the bail bondsman/antique dealer, CJ Floyd.

I hope you all had a wonderful summer and read a lot of books.

July 4, 2015

Invisible but They Exist

I often surf the Internet for reviews and critical articles about black crime writers. Sometimes I get lucky and stumble on an article that hits home with me. That is how I came across “Colored and Invisible” by Rachel Howzell Hall on the “The Life Sentence” website.

In her post, She observes

”If you’re a writer of color and you attend Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, or any of the writing conferences, you already know that there are more robots on Mars than there are colored folks in the banquet room.

Weird because the mystery genre has always been a great equalizer — you can’t get more equal than dead. And mystery writers are the ones who call out social ills and inequities. We kill the bad guys. But when it comes to diversity in the real-life room? Yeah, we have a problem.”

The absence of black nominees for the many awards for crime fiction certainly isn’t due to a lack of books by black writers. I have run out of room on my bookshelves and now put the books I buy in boxes on the floor. I sometimes have a difficult time finding reviews of books by black writers, but they are reviewed. In fact, Ms Hall’s novel Skies of Ash was reviewed in the June 21, 2015, New York Times Book Review. Why no black attendees and no black winners? As Ms Hall suggests, they are invisible to the white folks who select the attendees and nominees.

But, I’m optimistic things will get better. I say this because, when I was growing up the 1940s and 1950s, black writers in any genre were not a part of the curriculum in the segregated school system. They weren’t invisible, for invisibility means you’re present but not seen. They didn’t exist as far as the white school officials were concerned. Oh, we black kids knew about some of them, especially Langston Hughes, my favorite even today. We knew because during Black History Week (yes, it was only a week long before it became a month long) our teachers, not the white school officials, required us to study Negro history, including literature.

I didn’t know black crime writers existed until I entered college and read Chester Himes’s novels and Rudolph Fisher’s only detective novel, The Conjure-Man Dies. In the 1980s black writers entered the genre of crime fiction with amazing productivity. So, I’m optimistic they will sometime in this century attend the writing conferences and be nominated for and possibly win some of the awards. Ms Hall’s presence at the Bouchercon is evidence that my optimism is not misplaced.

During the era of Jim Crow in the south, the one thing that our teachers and parents and leaders inspired in us was hope. No matter how bed things were, we would overcome. 

As Ms Hall points out, the mystery genre is an equalizer.

Now go celebrate the Fourth of July! 
Curtesy of Hubpages

June 6, 2015

I Won a Prize

I’m taking a break from reading Robert Greer’s novels because I won a prize given by SleuthSayers blog. In the April 12, 2015 post (you can read the post here), Mr. Stephen Jarvis explains why he wrote the novel Death And Mr. Pickwick. I was given an Advanced Reader Copy as a prize for my comment on his post. I’m about half through the 802 page novel. It’ll probably take me a couple of months to finish it. In July and August I’ll post a thought or two on my blog but no reviews or critical articles. 

May 2, 2015

The Last Man Standing

“The past is never dead. It's not even past.” 
     William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

On November 22, 1963, an assassin shot and killed President John F. Kennedy. The assassination generated several conspiracies theories: it was the CIA; it was Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, it was Cuban President Fidel Castro; it was the KGB; and it was the Mafia. In his sixth CJ Floyd novel, THE MONGOOSE DECEPTION, Robert Greer suggests it might have been the Mafia and “The High Cabal” of 11 men who "were the power behind government and corporations and organized crime."  

Greer’s bail bondsman/antique dealer, CJ Floyd, gets involved in the conspiracy theory that the Mafia assassinated President John F. Kennedy when some 30 years after the Eisenhower Tunnel was completed in the 1970s a frozen arm is found behind the tunnel wall following an earthquake. Based on the tattoo on the arm, Cornelius McPherson, the worker who found the arm, identified it as belonging to a fellow worker named Antoine Ducane who disappeared in 1972. Cornelius is later killed when he attempts to locate Antoine’s next of kin. The gruesome find and the McPherson killing set in motion a series of events that everyone involved thinks might lead to the real JFK assassin. 

CJ tries to protect his long time friend, 86-year-old, former Denver mob boss Mario Satoni, the last Mafioso who might have knowledge of the assassination. The three mob bosses who allegedly planned the operation are dead. Once evidence connects Antoine Ducane to the assassination, an FBI agent goes after Mario Satoni. Mario’s nephew Rollie Ornasetti, who supervised a failed assassination attempt in Chicago in 1963, tries to frame Mario. Carmine Cassias, the young boss of the Louisiana crime family, wants Satoni and Rollie dead for fear they will reveal the Mafia’s role in the assassination.

As he searches for the hitman Rollie sends to kill Satoni, CJ finds himself working with Satoni’s enforcer Pinkie Niedermyer and Gus Cavalaris, the Denver Homicide detective investigating the murders of Ducane and McPherson. Eighty-year-old Willette Ducane travels to Denver from Louisiana and hires CJ to find out what happened to her son Antoine.

The unknown villains manipulating events behind the scene don’t want the truth about the assassination revealed either. CJ, however, believes he might change history: "…I think we might have stumbled across something that could put a new twist on history." He thinks he “can shed just a little bit of truth on that killing…”

The Mongoose Deception is a good “what if” novel. What if it was the Mafia and some leaders in industry and government who wanted President John F. Kennedy dead? The novel is an entertaining fantasy with unknown villains manipulating the known villains. Greer does a good job of keeping the plot tight, not going off on a tangent exploring other theories.

If you are a member of a “who killed JFK” conspiracy club you will enjoy The Mongoose Deception more than the previous five novels.

April 17, 2015

The Bizarre Game

I chose the title of this review based on the game a rich man plays in Robert Greer's fifth novel in his CJ Floyd series. To reveal the nature of the game my faithful readers would be a spoiler. However, It’s not a spoiler to tell you that the dangerous game in which the ex-bail bondsman CJ Floyd finds himself involves four photographs of the Golden Spike Ceremony depicting the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The fourth photograph is The Fourth Perspective. 

As he promised his lady friend Mavis Sundee, CJ is no longer a bail bondsman. He sold the business to his partner Flora Jean Benson. He is now an antique dealer. His new business, IKE'S SPOT: VINTAGE WESTERN COLLECTIBLES, is named after the uncle who raised him. 

From his first customer, Luis Del Mora, a young Nicaraguan man, CJ buys two rare books he suspects Luis probably stole from a private library. One is about Wyoming cattle brands in 1883. The second is about the history of medicine in Colorado. Evidence that something was attached to the back end board of the second book incites CJ’s curiosity. In satisfying his curiosity, he learns that the antique business is almost as dangerous as the bail bond business.

CJ’s excitement over obtaining the two books is deflated when Denver homicide detective, Sergeant Fritz Commons, visits the store and informs him the young Nicaraguan man was found dead in an alley. Commons confiscates the two books as evidence. He visits CJ again a few days later and asks him about another dead man, Oliver Lyman, a professor of American History at the community college. Luis had been one of his students. Luis’s mother, Theresa, wants to hire CJ to find her son’s killer. Having quit the bail bond business, he refers her to his former partner Flora Jean. 

Stolen books, two dead men, and a grieving mother put CJ back in the business of doing what he loves—chasing bad guys—when Flora Jean asks for his help. He dreads having to explain to Mavis why he is again chasing bad guys:

He still hadn't been able to figure out exactly where he was now headed in life, but he suspected that sooner or later a proper choice would surface. He hadn't fully abandoned the idea of continuing in the antiques business, but he knew for certain now that he couldn't completely turn his back on being a bail bondsman. He had no idea how he'd combine the two polar-opposite careers, but with Mavis's hesitant blessing, he was going to try.

To find the killer, CJ must find the owner of the two rare books he bought from Luis. His research revealed that the item that was attached to the end board of the medical book was a daguerreotype photograph of the Golden Spike Ceremony worth millions of dollars. The hunt for the killer leads to a confrontation with a “wealthy oil and gas baron, whose Western lineage stretched back to before Colorado's 1876 statehood...." Howard Stafford is a serious collector of books and owns an extensive library. To him, the conflict with CJ is a game he warns CJ he will lose.

Stafford is not the only danger CJ faces. His deadly nemesis, Celeste Deepstream, reappears just as I expected. After escaping from CJ when he rescued Mavis from her clutches in Resurrecting Langston Blue, she returns for another try at killing him. With her third appearance I realized her stalking of CJ adds tension to the story—no matter what case he’s on, he will always worry about when and where she will strike.

The former boss of the Denver mafia family, Mario Satoni, who was a friend of CJ’s uncle Ike, offers him a way to work as a bail bondsman and an antique dealer. If CJ comes into the antique business with him, he would “get to spend part of his time with Flora Jean doing what you’ve always done and the rest over here with me offering antiques and collectibles for sale—and a little protection.” Will CJ accept the offer? Read the next novel to find out.

The plot of The Fourth Perspective is much tighter than Greer’s previous three novels, which shows he is getting better at telling CJ’s stories. Best of all, we watch CJ develop over time. Unlike some detectives, he has personal problems, especially in the romance department. 

March 7, 2015

The Army Deserter

Resurrecting Langston Blue, the fourth novel in Robert Greer’s CJ Floyd series, is filled with some real nasty people in its exploration of an atrocity an American army special forces team called Star 1 might have committed during the Vietnam war. 
After his cabin in the woods of West Virginia is blown up, army deserter Langston Blue knows he is a marked man. The two men who helped him get back to the United States from Vietnam and paid him $20,000 a year for 30 years now consider him a liability. In his pocket is a letter from a daughter in Denver whom he never knew existed.

The daughter, Carmen Nguyen, knows about her father because her aunt Ket, her mother’s sister, knew what happened to him based on what her sister Mimm, Blue’s Vietnam wife, told her. For 30 years, Ket kept the post office box number for him that Mimm had given her.  Carmen hires CJ Floyd and his partner Flora Jean Benson to find her father. Before they can get on a plane to West Virginia, Langston Blue arrives in Denver. After they hear his story, CJ, Flora Jean, and Julie, CJ’s former secretary who is now a lawyer, take on the job of proving Langston wasn’t a deserter.

The murder of Democratic senatorial candidate Peter Margolin complicates Langston’s situation. Margolin was Langston's commanding officer of the Star 1 team of which Langston was a member. Five members of the team were killed on the last mission. Since Langston was one of the survivors, he becomes the prime suspect in Margolin’s murder. The three detectives must unravel a conspiracy surrounding the Star 1 team to clear Langston.

Two people complicate CJ’s attempt to clear Langston. The first is his former high school rival Lieutenant Wendall Newburn the homicide detective investigating the case who was a rival for Mavis Sundee’s affections. He still carries a grudge because Mavis Sundee picked CJ instead of him, and he isn’t too fond of Flora Jean.

The second is Celeste Deepstream. In The Devil’s Backbone, she vowed vengeance on CJ for sending her twin brother Bobby Two-shirts back to prison where he died. After serving five years in prison for killing bail bondsman Cicero Vickers she is released on parole. She returns to Denver with one thing on her mind—kill CJ Floyd. She decides the best way to get to him is through his ladylove Mavis Sundee. This parallel plot makes the novel longer than it should be and contributes nothing to the main plot. I expect to see her in the next novel.

In Resurrecting Langston Blue, CJ faces a dilemma I also expect to be resolved in the next novel. Mavis wants him to quit the dangerous bail bond business. He thinks about quitting and going into selling antiques. The dilemma adds depth to his personality, which I expect to observe becoming more complex over time.

Greer doesn’t describe in detail the pulsating life of Five Points so that you feel the heart and soul of the black community, but he does show in generic terms its ongoing decline:

The Points, the core of Denver's black community since early in the twentieth century, was a neighborhood in transition. Urban gentrification and increasing ethnic diversity were becoming more obvious every day. Longtime shades of black were making way for every color in the rainbow.

Greer again provides a history of black cowboys. Nat Love was one of the six black cowboys who participated in the Fourth of July Celebration in Deadwood City, South Dakota in 1876. He won the shooting contest and earned the nickname “Deadwood Dick.” (Reference: The Black West by William Loren Katz. A Touchtone Book, published by Simon & Shuster Inc. Copyright 1987, 1996 by Ethrac Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-684-81478-1) 
Although I think Resurrecting Langston Blue is about 100 pages too long, it is a well-plotted novel and shows that character and plot are inseparable.

February 7, 2015

The Dead Man in the Water Trough

The setting of the main action In The Devil’s Backbone, the third novel in Robert Greer’s CJ Floyd series, is in the area of the hogback referred to as “the Devil’s Backbone.” It is an ugly, brutal rock formation in Larimer County, Colorado that CJ’s uncle described as “a modern-day gargoyle, strategically placed at the mouth of the canyon to warn all who entered to beware.”  

 Hambone Dolbey, an ex-bull rider who mentored Morgan Williams, is found dead in a water trough dressed in a wet suit at the Greeley Stampede. Morgan and his friend Dittier Atkins ask the bounty hunting bail bondsman, CJ Floyd, to find the killer. CJ knows the two old rodeo cowboys don’t have the money to pay him. But because they once saved his life, he takes the case. I won’t spoil the story by telling you how they paid him, which surprised CJ and me.

CJ’s main adversaries in this adrenalin pulsating novel are Whitaker Rodgers, President of Pandeco Oil and Gas Company, his mother Virginia Rodgers, CEO of the company, and his girl friend Evelyn Coleman, chief engineer. Hambone had an arrangement with Whitaker Rodgers for an easement across Hambone’s property in the area around The Devil’s Backbone to where Whitaker believed diamonds were located on Pandeco property. Unknown to CJ, another player is Hambone’s son Aaron Baptiste and his mother Rebecca, whom Hambone got pregnant when she was a 15-year-old groupie. The final showdown between CJ and his many adversaries near The Devil’s Backbone increases the adrenalin high for CJ, Flora Jean, and the reader.

Bounty hunting becomes very dangerous when the hunter becomes the prey. Celeste Deepstream begins stalking CJ after he returns her bond-skipping twin brother Bobby Two-shirts to jail. CJ doesn't take seriously Bobby’s warning that Celeste will get even with him until an unknown assailant attacks him in his garage.

In addition to looking over his shoulder for Celeste and investigating Hambone’s death, CJ has to deal with Sheriff Carlton Pritchard whom he remembers from the time the sheriff helped take down a group of ecoterrorists. Sheriff Pritchard warns him not to interfere in the Hambone case. When Hambone’s girlfriend Nadine Kemp is killed, CJ thinks the two deaths are connected. Sheriff Pritchard again warns him not to interfere. Of course CJ doesn’t heed the warnings.

Meanwhile, CJ also deals with two personal problems not connected to the case. While his Puerto Rican secretary Julie is studying for her bar examination, she hires a six-foot, black female ex-marine named Flora Jean Benson to work as his secretary. His biggest worry, however, is how to explain to his girl friend Mavis that he has to postpone their vacation to New Mexico.

The novel has one glaring flaw. Neither CJ nor Sheriff Pritchard investigates why Hambone who was afraid of going into the water was wearing a wetsuit. If they had done so, they might have discovered the motive for the murder early on in the investigation. This failure of the investigators and their author do not spoil the enjoyment of the tight, action-filled plot.

Like most black crime fiction writers, Greer shows the history of black folks in the part of the country where his stories take place. In The Devil’s Backbone, he mentions Myrtis Dightman who “In 1966…became the first black cowboy to qualify for the Professional Rodeo Association National Finals.” Hambone was a contemporary of Dightman’s.