The Devil's Hatband

Robert Greer, Author Mysterious Press $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-89296-634-9
Crimes against cattle and cars feature strongly in this muddled but undeniably original debut starring CJ Floyd, a black Denver bail bondsman and sometime bounty hunter. Hired by a couple of corporate troubleshooters, CJ searches for the missing daughter of a black federal judge, figuring that his clients are less interested in Brenda Mathison than in some documents they say she stole. Brenda is a leader of PlanetFirst, a gang of animal rights fanatics who've been tormenting some ranchers. The group's ranks also include two hard cases who share Brenda's bed at various times, and who have in their possession a new killer virus that could effectively wipe out the cattle population. By the time CJ arrives at Brenda's rural cabin, she's dead on the floor, wearing a barbed-wire necklace. CJ's subsequent investigation is as much a ritual of revenge as it is a battle for controlling rights to the virus. Greer packs in a few too many subplots (a slow romance with a woman at a diner; a feud with a Denver gangster), and he reiterates too often what we already know: that a black man like CJ knows justice isn't blind. But his narrative is taut and the characters--the tough CJ and others--are intriguing. Though Greer could easily have jettisoned a hundred pages and still retain a slick-functioning mystery, his first work, for all its excesses, leaves a reader hungry for more. Author tour. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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