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.