One of the best parts about being a librarian is talking about books with your patrons. While I make every effort to read across as many genres as I can, I tend to focus on mystery and science fiction. I therefore mistakenly consider myself somewhat well-read in these genres. That is why it is such a joy to discover a new-old author – someone who has been around a while, but has yet to cross my radar. New-old authors have been around long enough that their work has been enjoyed by many – enough so that their more extensive writing career guarantees a good read.
David Mapstone, the protagonist, has a Ph.D in history and no job. Struggling with the political correctness of the educational system, the former deputy has returned to his native Phoenix and been given a job closing cold cases by an old friend, the Mariposa County sheriff. Somehow, old cases bring up new murders, and Mapstone is thrust in the middle of active investigations despite the sheriff’s angry insistence he stay out of active duty. Their friendship, tumultuous though it is, is a constant thread throughout the series.
The books, if read in the order suggested on the author page: Concrete Desert, Cactus Heart (ignore the first “prequel” paragraph), Camelback Falls, Dry Heat, Arizona Dreams, South Phoenix Rules, and The Night Detectives, are a tightly written, engaging series of mysteries with a sense of evolution of character that is not often seen in character-driven mystery series. Our detective changes and grows, as do his friends and family, and the town around them. His place as the “history detective” in town leads him to remarkable places despite his best efforts. Crimes both old and new are uncovered, and there are twists and turns that shock and surprise. Who can be trusted in a town known for corruption and big land deals? Who is pulling whose strings, and why? Who keeps calling David and warning him of dire consequences if he continues meddling? Politics and current events weave together with history to give a deep sense of place unusual in the genre
The author, Jon Talton, is a Phoenix native who, like his main character, returned to his hometown, though as a journalist. He has a deep knowledge of Phoenix and Phoenix history, and the city is a living, breathing character in his David Mapstone series of mysteries. He also writes a blog and has other mysteries published about Cincinatti and Seattle.