Book Review: Reservations by Gwen Florio

Reservations
A Lola Wicks Mystery #4
Gwen Florio
Midnight Ink, March 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5042-2
Trade Paperback

Journalist Lola Wicks is finally on a honeymoon/vacation with her husband Charlie Laurendeau and their daughter. It will be her first meeting with Charlie’s brother and his wife, who are big wheels on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Charlie and his brother Edgar are Blackfoot; Lola is white, which provides a lot of tension.

No welcome awaits them in Arizona. There’s been a bombing outside a large coal mine on the reservation, and an elderly Navajo man killed. Tribal members are protesting the taking and exploitation of the their land. Their water is poisoned, and alcoholism runs rampant. Edgar and his wife, Naomi, a high-powered tribal lawyer, are busy trying to sort out the murder.

But Lola’s journalist tendencies come to the fore, as do Charlie’s, as he’s the top cop on the Blackfoot Reservation. Trouble between them looms, raising an ugly racist head. As rivals, they investigate the bombings and murder, and death lays in wait.

Ms. Florio’s depiction of the waterless heat in desert country is very real. I enjoyed the care the family had for Bub, their three-legged dog. I believe there are previous books and I want to know what happened to the pooch. The little girls in the story, who in less able hands might be overlooked, are also amazingly well-done characters.

All in all, an enjoyable story with a realistic, if sad premise. It might just turn a reader into an Indian Rights activist.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: Dizzy in Durango by D. R. Ransdell

Dizzy in DurangoDizzy in Durango
An Andy Veracruz Mystery #3
D. R. Ransdell
Oak Tree Press, December 2015
ISBN 978-1-61009-212-8
Trade Paperback

Trouble follows Andy Veracruz, and this time it’s at the airport in Durango, Mexico where the problems begin. Andy is there to visit his fellow Mariachi musician and sometimes lover, Rachel, who is there for a family celebration. But a sexy woman at the airport attracts his attention, leaves her purse with him, and disappears.

Inside the bag, Andy finds three thousand dollars. He involves his girlfriend in his search for the missing woman, and they run into danger. Stolen children, dead bodies, and psychotic killers from Durango to the Mexican border to Tucson, Arizona disrupt romantic intentions. Too, Andy’s dizzy spells produce concerns among his Mexican friends.

Meanwhile, Andy’s relationship with his girlfriend and his music career take unexpected twists and turns. The small-town setting of Durango, a symphony audition in Tucson, and the Arizona desert landscape add interest and appeal to the story.

Although references to previous episodes in the series disrupt the flow a few times, this cozy mystery is a page-turner with plenty of action. At the same time, it presents character studies and moral dilemmas that cause the reader to reflect on solutions long after the final scene.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, March 2016.
http://www.joyceannbrown.com
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections, Furtive Investigation and Nine LiFelines, the first three Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

Teeny Reviews: Joy to the Worlds by Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak and G. Clemans, No Honor Among Thieves by J.A. Jance, Peril by Ponytail by Nancy J. Cohen, One Year After by William R. Forstchen, and Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter

Joy to the WorldsJoy to the Worlds
Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays
Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak and G. Clemans
Grey Sun Press, November 2015
ISBN 978-0-9908157-6-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What do you get when you mix mystery and speculative fiction, then toss in the holidays for good measure? A mobster Santa, genetic hanky-panky, Victorian villages, time-travelling detectives, a Krampus, eerie bell spirits, and more–this collection of short cross-genre fiction is the perfect counterpoint to traditional holiday reading!

Joy to the Worlds brings together eight short works that explore mysteries across time and space. Ranging from dark dystopian worlds to comedic retro-futures, four diverse writers find new ways to combine these disparate worlds.

This collection stars national bestselling mystery author Maia Chance, who dazzles with humor and folklore; IPPY award-winning science fiction author Janine A. Southard beguiles with unexpected time-travel science; science fiction and fantasy bestseller Raven Oak offers a look into the gothic past; and for a whole new perspective, debut fiction author and art expert G. Clemans dives into the intersections of creativity and mystery.

Whether you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, mystery, Christmas, noir, gothic, or folktales—this collection has something for you.

I tend to shy away from anthologies because I don’t much like coming to the end of a short story I really like, wanting it to be a full-length novel, but Joy to the Worlds interested me on first glance because I knew and liked two of the authors’ work but had never tried the others. This seemed like a good opportunity to return to familiar writers and meet a couple more.

Tyson Wallenstein, a dead detective trying to prove himself—he’s only been dead a year so he’s the newbie of the group—sets out to investigate a man’s death without all the trappings of a living detective (no forensics, no DNA, etc.) in the first story and I was immediately captivated. Was it an accident? Murder? Is the prosthetic leg attached to a high heel a clue? Why does mistletoe seem to be everywhere?

In another story, a young American named Odysseus Flax is overcome with motion sickness while traveling by train through the Alps and jumps off the train in a little village called Kiefertal. There he encounters the underbelly of Christmas during Krampusnacht when a very rich man decides to scare his obnoxious little boy and Odysseus learns there is much he does not know about what’s real or not real in this picturesque little town.

Four authors with four very different choices of genre and style offer two stories each that entertain in an unexpected way, giving the reader a slightly askew look at the holiday season. What better way to be introduced to authors you haven’t tried before?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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No Honor Among ThievesNo Honor Among Thieves
An Ali Reynolds/Joanna Brady Novella
J.A. Jance
Pocket Star Books, November 2015
ISBN 978-1-5011-3559-0
Ebook

From the publisher—

“A semi’s gone over the embankment.” The call wakes Sheriff Joanna Brady in the middle of the night, but what brings her fully alert is the rest of the story. The driver didn’t drift off to sleep and cross the center line—he was shot, multiple times, by someone with serious firepower. And when the truck crashed through the guardrail, its payload wound up scattered all over the road—boxes upon boxes of Legos.

Legos that are being tracked by B. Simpson’s security firm to reduce black market sales—and Ali Reynolds is just the woman to get to the bottom of the crime. She has the tech and the intel to follow the money (or, in this case, the Legos), which makes her a valuable asset to Joanna’s team. Soon these two strong women realize that they’re not just sharing a case, they’re kindred spirits—which is paramount, because the killer they’re up against is anything but child’s play.

A new Joanna Brady story is always a treat to my way of thinking and, in No Honor Among Thieves, we get the best of two protagonists, Joanna and Ali Reynolds. So much fun!

Other characters are just as enjoyable, Kendra, B. and Cami just to name a few. One of Ms. Jance‘s particular strengths lies in creating characters you can develop a connection with and I never feel overloaded with names to keep straight other than a few of the very minor players.

Who knew LEGOS are actually a hot product on the black market? Yes, those little plastic things you make cool stuff with go for high prices once a set is retired, much like other collectibles, and that’s what brings Ali into the investigation. Her husband’s security company has been hired to shadow LEGOS shipments to try to identify the sources of the black market commodities and B. sends Ali to the scene to check out the identification chips on the LEGOS packages, hopefully to figure out why a midsized truck was carrying the toys on back roads. What she and Joanna find, though, only adds to the puzzle of why someone wanted to kill the driver in such a spectacular fashion and, before it’s all over, a gigantic mistake is made.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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Peril by PonytailPeril by Ponytail
A Bad Hair Day Mystery #12
Nancy J. Cohen
Five Star Publishing, September 2015
ISBN 978-1432830984
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Marla and Dalton’s honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch veers from dangerous to downright deadly faster than a horse headed to the corral. With her husband’s uncle–the resort’s owner–on the suspect list for murder, Marla races to prove his innocence. She hopes her blind trust isn’t misplaced, especially when she learns their relative has secrets he’d rather keep buried. As the bodies pile up, she digs deep to find the killer. With her new family in jeopardy, she’d better figure out who’s adding to the spirits haunting a nearby ghost town before someone she loves is hurt.

The very idea of the girly-girl Marla honeymooning at a dude ranch was funny enough to make me want to read Peril by Ponytail, latest in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, and I found myself highly entertained by the scenario. Marla is her usual snoopy self (although, as can be expected, quite rational about it) and feels compelled to investigate when her uncle by marriage becomes a murder suspect in the midst of a series of mishaps at the ranch and a nearby ghost town.

The relationship between Marla and her police detective husband, Dalton, is appealing, partially because they respect each other’s abilities in investigating crime. Marla is no ditzy woman who thinks she knows better than the police; rather, they work together comfortably.

Secrets abound, motives keep cropping up and danger seems to be everywhere but there’s fun to be had watching Marla do her thing. She might want folks to think she’s annoyed by the interruption to her honeymoon but those of us who’ve been following her adventures for years know better, don’t we? 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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One Year AfterOne Year After
William R. Forstchen
Forge, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-7653-7670-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The story picks up a year after One Second After ends, two years since the detonation of nuclear weapons above the United States brought America to its knees. After suffering starvation, war, and countless deaths, the survivors of Black Mountain, North Carolina, are beginning to piece back together the technologies they had once taken for granted: electricity, radio communications, and medications. They cling to the hope that a new national government is finally emerging.

Then comes word that most of the young men and women of the community are to be drafted into an “Army of National Recovery” and sent to trouble spots hundreds of miles away.

When town administrator John Matherson protests the draft, he’s offered a deal: leave Black Mountain and enter national service, and the draft will be reduced. But the brutal suppression of a neighboring community under its new federal administrator and the troops accompanying him suggests that all is not as it should be with this burgeoning government.

Six years ago, I read One Second After by this same author and was struck by how well Mr. Forstchen created the world that would exist immediately after a devastating EMP attack and during the following year. Black Mountain, NC, became a microcosm of the self-destruction and the triumph over extreme adversity that would inevitably follow such an event, made even more realistic for me because I’ve been to the real Black Mountain and could easily “see” what went on. All these years later, it remains one of my favorite post-apocalyptic novels despite a few flaws and I hoped the author would someday let us know what happened to the survivors of Black Mountain.

Finally, I heard earlier this year that the sequel was coming out and I jumped right on it. Let me just say I was not the least bit disappointed and found the premise of a bureaucracy run amok to be completely credible. After all, there are many people in this world who think they should be in charge but I also have no trouble believing the people of a small town would come together in an effort to do what’s right and best for their neighbors while still trying to help those outside the community. Setting this story in a small town was the perfect thing to do because the reader really gets to know the people and develop a strong connection that isn’t as likely in a densely-populated area. This sequel focuses on what the survivors would do after the initial emergency, what choices they would make going forward. One Year After is a gripping novel although, by the nature of the beast, it doesn’t have the riveting impact of the first book. Still, I’m really anticipating the third book, Unite Or Die, due out in September 2016.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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Blonde Hair, Blue EyesBlonde Hair, Blue Eyes
Karin Slaughter
Witness Impulse, August 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-2442819
Ebook
Also available in mass market paperback

From the publisher—

“A beautiful young girl was walking down the street―when suddenly…”

Julia Carroll knows that too many stories start that way. Beautiful, intelligent, a nineteen-year-old college freshman, she should be carefree. But instead she is frightened. Because girls are disappearing.

A fellow student, Beatrice Oliver, is missing. A homeless woman called Mona-No-Name is missing. Both taken off the street. Both gone without a trace.

Julia is determined to find out the reasons behind their disappearances. And she doesn’t want to be next…

Karin Slaughter‘s name always comes to my mind when I hear the word “thriller”. She’s a bit too realistic for some readers but I love her work and had been anxiously awaiting her new standalone, Pretty Girls, when I saw that there was a prequel short story, giving us the backstory of one of the Pretty Girls characters. I tend to read prequels after the fact even when they’re actually offered before the primary novel so I was especially eager to grab Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes.

When bad things happen to young women, they’re frequently blonde with blue eyes as that seems to be a favorite type for bad guys. What’s interesting about this particular blonde is that she knows girls have gone missing and she’s frightened for herself, as any rational person would be, but she’s still determined to write the story that will focus attention on the supposed abductions. In doing so, Julia puts a target on her own back…or is it possible the danger is closer to home?

All in all, this is an excellent lead-in to Pretty Girls.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

 

Book Review: Half in Love with Death by Emily Ross

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Title: Half in Love with Death
Author: Emily Ross
Publisher: Merit Press
Release Date: December 16, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

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Half in Love with DeathHalf in Love with Death
Emily Ross
Merit Press, December 2015
ISBN 978-1-4405-8903-4
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline’s life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She’s invisible to her parents, who can’t stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister’s older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline’s desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her.

Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess’s disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we’ll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again.

Inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’, Half in Love with Death is a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.

To lose a sibling at any age and under any circumstances is painful but how terrible it must be when you’re a teen and no one knows what happened to your sister. I watch a lot of crime shows on the ID channel and I’m particularly struck by the stories of the “Disappeared”. There’s so much left hanging and no real resolution until the missing loved one is found either alive or dead and teens and younger children must be especially bewildered by this world they thought was safe.

When Caroline’s sister is lost, her parents don’t exactly feel less love for her; it’s just that they’re consumed by their grief and fear and their need to place blame. As you might expect, they all turn inwards and fail to comfort each other as much as they could, creating the perfect chance for Jess’s boyfriend, Tony, to step in to Caroline’s life with promises that, together, they can find Jess. It’s hardly surprising that Caroline would be drawn to this man but her inexperience and innocence, her desperation to find her sister and her near-abandonment by her parents blind her to Tony’s true nature.

Much of what happens in this novel would be unlikely today with our much-heightened sense of the evil that exists in the world but the 60’s were a more innocent time with thoughts of peace and love for one another and just general trust mixed in with our acute awareness of war and the atrocities that go with it. Sure, there was evil then, too, but it just did not have the same pervasiveness as today and, let’s face it, many of us believed in an Ozzie and Harriet universe. I did quite a few things as a teen that would give me heart seizures now if my 20-something grandson did them, much less a teenaged daughter. It’s that difference in how we see things now that makes Half in Love with Death such a powerful novel even though the story itself is pretty predictable.

Caroline herself is painfully naive, more so than any 15-year-old I knew back then, but her family is unusually dysfunctional and it’s clear she’s struggling to find her own way. As much as I wanted to shake some sense into her and, sometimes, I really didn’t think she had a brain, I also liked her and wanted her to find some comfort. The journey toward that hope kept me reading until the end and, predictable or not, I enjoyed the trip.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

About the Author

Emily RossEmily Ross’s YA mystery/thriller HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH is forthcoming from Merit Press(12/2015). She received a 2014 MCC Artist Fellowship finalist award for fiction, and is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program. When not writing she works as a web developer and is the mother of two millennials. Find out more at http://www.emilyrosswrites.com/ or https://twitter.com/emilyross816.

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Book Review: H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath by Natalie Wright

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Title: H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath
Series: H.A.L.F. #1
Author: Natalie Wright
Publisher: Boadicea Press
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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HALF The Deep BeneathThe Deep Beneath
H.A.L.F. Book 1
Natalie Wright
Boadicea Press, January 2015
ISBN 978-1505524727
Trade Paperback

From the author—

H.A.L.F. 9 has taken his first breath of desert air and his first steps in the human world. Created to be a weapon, he proved too powerful for his makers and has lived a sedated life hidden from humans. But H.A.L.F. 9 has escaped the underground lab he called home, and the sedation has worn off. He has never been more alive. More powerful. Or more deadly.

Erika Holt longs to ride her motorcycle east until pavement meets shore. She bides her time until graduation when she’ll say adios to the trailer she shares with her alcoholic mother and memories of her dead father. But a typical night in the desert with friends thrusts Erika into a situation more dangerous than she ever imagined.

Circumstances push the two together, and each must make a fateful choice. Will Erika help H.A.L.F. 9 despite her “don’t get involved” rule? And will H.A.L.F. 9 let Erika live even though he was trained to kill?

The two may need to forget their rules and training and if either is to survive the dangers of the deep beneath them.

One of my favorite books is Watchers by Dean Koontz in which an experiment produces two creatures, one a triumph of goodness and the other a creature that is violent and terrifying. Underlying that monstrous demeanour, though, is a sadness and a yearning for something better and it’s that dichotomy that The Deep Beneath reminds me of. While the hybrid created by an experiment is intended for, and capable of, terrible things, H.A.L.F. 9 has a softer side and, because of that, is quite vulnerable.

When Erika, Ian and Jack set out to help 9 after a deadly encounter in the desert, they forge a bond none could have foreseen and this is the heart of the story. There’s a certain lack of trust between 9 and the other three but they work through it for the most part and become a real team. Each one is memorable to me, especially 9 and Erika, and I really like all four of them and admire the humans’ drive to find safety for this being who comes to mean so much to them.

As for the plot, this is a good old-fashioned Area 51 type of story and is pretty straightforward, nasty government conspirators and all. It’s just the type of alien encounter science fiction that appeals to me and The Deep Beneath was really quite satisfying while the author added elements that made this more than “just another Roswell” tale. I especially appreciated her use of varying levels of humidity, something I haven’t seen before.

The Deep Beneath ends on a cliffhanger but I was already thinking how glad I was that this is the first book in a series because I want more of this story, much more. I really hope Ms. Wright will have the next installment ready for us soon.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2015.

About the Author

Natalie WrightNatalie is the author of H.A.L.F., a young adult science fiction series, and The Akasha Chronicles, a young adult fantasy trilogy. She lives in the high desert of Tucson, Arizona with her husband, tween daughter, and two young cats.

Natalie spends her time writing, reading, gaming, geeking out over nerd culture and cool science, hanging out on social media, and meeting readers and fans at festivals and comic cons throughout the western United States. She likes to walk in the desert, snorkel in warm waters, travel, and share excellent food and conversation with awesome people. She was raised an Ohio farm girl, lives in the desert Southwest, and dreams of living in a big city high rise.

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Shorts Reviews: Half-Life by Tina Ferraro and The Last Second by Robin Burcell

Half-LifeHalf-Life
Tina Ferraro
Leap Books, March 2015
ISBN 9781616030261
Ebook

From the publisher—

Half a life is not worth living.

Probably not a good idea to take advice from your dead twin sister. High school sophomore Trisha Traynor and friends have played the Halloween mirror game for years, the one that’s supposed to show a glimpse of the guy they’ll marry. But no one’s ever seen anything.

Until tonight—when Trisha is gob smacked by the candlelit arrival of her long-deceased twin sister, instead of her crush, Kirk Maxwell.

In a voice and vision that only Trisha can hear and see, Chessie claims to be back on a compassionate journey. Trisha fears she’s gone nuthouse crazy. But she nonetheless follows the instructions Chessie outlines in their nightly conversations, until she finds herself stepping across some ethical lines, and probably ending all chances with Kirk.

When a sisterly showdown ensues, resulting in the shattering of the mirror, Chessie’s gone again, and a heartsick Trisha sets about righting her recent wrongs. That is, until she stumbles upon the real reason Chessie had come back and the most important glimpse yet that the mirror could never predict.

One thing really struck me about Half-Life that doesn’t often happen with books, young adult or otherwise. I connected with Trisha in a major way because she and I had a lot in common if you just forget the facts that she doesn’t actually exist and that there is about a 50 year spread going on. Pah! Minor details! Now, I didn’t have a twin who died as a young child and I’ve never seen a ghost in a mirror or anywhere else but I was a 14-year-old girl when I had my first kiss and my first boyfriend and, my goodness, the memories and the feelings of my 14-year-old self all came flooding back.

Trisha’s home life is just shy of normal. Her mom has never been able to come to terms with Chessie’s death so Trisha, her little brother and her dad all have to tiptoe around her, not even daring to talk openly about Chessie. That all makes it even more critical that the rest of Trisha’s life—school, friends, potential boyfriends, etc.—stay on an even keel. Unfortunately, her BFF, Abby, has pretty much dropped her because she has a boyfriend and a neighboring schoolmate is pressuring Trisha to do something she knows is wrong. Oh, and what is she going to do about those two guys, the DDG (Drop Dead Gorgeous) Kirk and Chadwick, and her ghostly sister?

Half-Life is a sweet story with a little bit of intrigue and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is my introduction to Tina Ferraro‘s work and I just may have to try some more 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

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The Last SecondThe Last Second
Robin Burcell
Witness Impulse, December 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-2273734
Ebook

From the publisher—

Covert agent Zachary Griffin and FBI Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick are sidetracked from an ongoing investigation to follow up on a potential lead. In a small Arizona border town, gunrunning and drug trafficking into Mexico are a part of the landscape—but not when they’re orchestrated by an officer in uniform. At least that’s the story told to agents Griffin and Fitzpatrick.

But the dirty cop is now missing, and his sister says he’s innocent, a victim of a corrupt police department. She is convinced they set him up to take the fall, then killed him, and she can prove it—with help from a highly unusual witness. Suddenly an open-and-shut case seems anything but, and the clock is ticking as Griffin and Fitzpatrick take on an entire police department in a deadly match that could go up in smoke at the last second.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read any of Robin Burcell‘s books, not because I didn’t want to but just because I have a mountainous TBR that never gets any smaller. Anyway, I’m very glad that I picked up this short story because it reminded me of how much I really do like Sydney and Zach.

At first, the case seems to be relatively simple: a dirty cop, Calvin Walker, working with the Mexican cartels, might be the person who can lead Sidney and Zach to the head of the operation, a gunrunning ex-CIA agent named Garrett Quindlen. Trouble is Calvin has disappeared and may be in possession of a lot of explosives. Finding him is problematic until they hear about a special witness named Max.

I really enjoyed this story. As short as it is, Ms. Burcell has packed a good deal of action and suspense into this reminder that this is an author well worth reading. I hope that, by the time I catch up on her work, a new book will be coming out, either in this series or Kate Gillespie’s or, what the heck, something entirely new 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

Book Review: High Country Nocturne by Jon Talton

High Country NocturneHigh Country Nocturne  
A David Mapstone Mystery #
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen Press, June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0398-5
Hardcover
Also available in trade paperback

Author Jon Talton hails from a multi-generational line of Arizonians. As such he is privy to the historical development of the state. In 1915 the US Census registered fewer than 7,000 residents. In 2015, more than seven million. Lots of changes in that time. Most of them make Talton unhappy. His unhappiness occasionally gets in the way of a powerful, nuanced and complicated tale of murder and mystery.

Talton is a fine writer and you’ll realize it from the beginning. His sensitivity and understanding of more subtle pressure points in the relationship between Maricopa County Deputy Sheriff, David Mapstone and his wife, Lindsey, provide both complications and additional rhythm to this story.

Yes, Mapstone is still in Phoenix, first as a private investigator after his friend and former boss, Sheriff Mike Peralta, is defeated in the most recent election. Almost nobody likes the new sheriff in town and Mapstone is suspicious when the man coerces Mapstone into regaining his job as a deputy. This is particularly odd because Peralta is on the run, hotly pursued by an assortment of law enforcement types for stealing a large consignment of unset diamonds he was supposed to be guarding. It’s also an interesting development because it has unforeseen consequences for the new sheriff.

Nevertheless, and against his better judgement, Mapstone takes the badge and starts an investigation into a suspicious thirty-year-old death. Meanwhile, Peralta is still missing, Peralta’s wife is agitating Mapstone and vague accusations against Mapstone’s wife are clouding the picture.

The writing is clean, the characters are well delineated and separate and the pace relentless. Talton has a fine sense of when to insert emotional scenes that are important to readers’ understanding of character motivations and to readers invitation to bond with the attitudes of the protagonist, not just in relation to the crimes involved, but to the ongoing changes in the landscape of Arizona. And these are changes that the author resignedly accepts but not willingly. In some ways the novel is a plea for a return to older, simpler values.

Like others in the Mapstone series, the story winds up to a thrilling and tense solution. It’s well worth the ride and as a bonus, offers a look at some troubling aspects of modern Arizona.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2015.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.