Gangs, Guns and Politics

Title: South Phoenix Rules by Jon Talton
Publisher: Poison Pen Press
250 Pages
Genre: Urban Mystery

This book will be released in December 2010.  I received this as an advanced electronic galley from the publisher through

Synopsis: A handsome young New York professor comes to Phoenix to research his new book. But when he’s brutally murdered, police connect him to one of the world’s most deadly drug cartels. This shouldn’t be a case for historian-turned-deputy David Mapstone – except the victim has been dating David’s sister-in-law Robin and now she’s a target, too. David’s wife Lindsey is in Washington with an elite anti-cyber terror unit and she makes one demand of him: protect Robin.

This won’t be an easy job with the city police suspicious of Robin and trying to pressure her. With the sheriff’s office in turmoil, David is even more of an outsider. And the gangsters are able to outgun and outspend law enforcement. It doesn’t help that David and Lindsey’s long-distance marriage is under strain. But the danger is real and growing. To save Robin, David must leave his stack of historic crimes and plunge into the savage today world of smuggling – people, drugs, and guns – in Phoenix.

Review: After some investigation I learned that this was the 6th book in the David Mapstone Series.  Since learning this I can definitely see the advantage of reading these books in order.  While I really enjoyed the book I felt like an outsider looking in.  I was missing some of the reason behind different characters behaviors and the relationships between them that I believe was established in earlier books.

My other disadvantage was in not knowing much about Arizona. Taltons descriptions of the cities and the culture and politics are very vivid and I could see how they would be very appealing to someone who is familiar with the area. The descriptions of the neighborhoods included street names and neighborhood history making me want to know the area to better find myself in it.  It reminds me of how I feel about books set in Philadelphia or New Orleans which I am very familiar with and get a thrill out of following the characters as they walk around the city.  When you know the area and the people, its often easier to slip into the setting and feel of the book. Despite the lack of knowledge of Phoenix I did enjoy learning about it and you can tell the author has a deep passion for it.

The mystery that David Mapstone finds himself involved in leads him to a very dark place.  This is a great Noir novel as we see the main character go from an innocent man to a jaded man who is willing to walk a very dark path.  It was fascinating watching the transformation and wondering how it would all play out. Leaving the police force, unsure of the future of his marriage and surrounded by death David relies on his training as a historian to help him discover the links that bind it all together and find a way out.  The deceptions and mysteries that Mapstone uncovers are fascinating and interesting.