David Mapstone is a former Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputy, and now a former history professor. Having been denied tenure in San Diego, and running from a failed relationship there, Mapstone returns to his hometown of Phoenix to deal with his grandparents’ home.
Mapstone’s former instructor and partner Mike Peralta is now Chief Deputy, and Peralta has Mapstone going through cold cases with a fresh set of eyes, giving David some much-needed income. His first one goes easily, but the next one – a 40-year-old homicide – seems to be annoying someone. At the same time, his first love comes to him for help finding her little sister, who’s gone missing.
Talton does a great job of intertwining the two investigations Mapstone is dealing with, and I really enjoyed watching Mapstone go from history professor back to cop. Attacked early in the story, he realizes that his 15-year-younger self could have easily beaten the attacker, and is too embarrassed by losing the fight to mention it to Peralta. In the beginning, Mapstone doesn’t even carry a sidearm as he’s doing his digging, since it’s most often in dusty archives. But after the attack, he starts keeping a weapon in his car, finally resorting to carrying it all the time.
The city is as much a character as a setting. Talton tells of us Phoenix’s history through Mapstone’s eyes, and how it grew from a sleepy little town into a place where the joke is that if you’ve been there more than five years, you’re a native. He doesn’t dump it out all at once though, instead feeding it into the story as Mapstone remembers his childhood and days as a deputy.
The side characters are fleshed out well, from a couple of retired Phoenix cops to the shadowy guy in the black Mustang. I really liked Harrison Wolfe.
This was the debut novel for Jon Talton, and I look forward to reading more of the Mapstone series and Talton’s other books.