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.