Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review of the Day: Blackbird, Farewell


Blackbird, Farewell is the seventh novel in Robert Greer’s mystery series featuring bail bondsman C.J. Floyd. The specs look good – set in Denver instead of a more typical mystery locale; a hero who is neither a cop nor a lawyer (and, in this installment, out of town on his honeymoon, leaving his female, ex-Marine partner and an amateur-sleuth sidekick to solve the case); several entrenched characters, mostly from Denver’s old-school African American community; and the double homicide of a Pulitzer-winning journalist and a freshly-minted NBA star. 

Great set up. The problem is in the execution. This reads like a first novel, not a seventh. The narrative is clunky, making it almost impossible to be absorbed in the story.  Greer tries to pack too much back story into single sentences, leaving them unnavigable on a single read through. This habit is particularly irksome when the clunkers are incorporated into the dialog. Greer does a decent job with casual speaking voices, but no conversation between two long-time friends and business partners includes sentences as long winded as this:
But ever since Pinkie saved Damion’s behind last summer up at the Pawnee grasslands when Damion got himself all tangled up in that Eisenhower Tunnel murder case I was working, they’ve been as tight as Dick’s hatband.
Sentences like that taunt me to brush off the diagramming skills I learned in high school, but they do nothing to pull me into the story. Unfortunately, Greer drags the reader over several boulders just that big. 

Things smoothed out and picked up in the second half. There were a couple of solid plot twists, a reasonably exciting climax, and generally good overall resolution. But these improvements were not enough to salvage what, at best, is a mediocre mystery novel.

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