In an entertaining prequel, Talton tells how series hero David Mapstone got to be the way he is.
The History Shamus was born on the December day in 1999 which Prof. David Mapstone failed to get tenure at San Diego State. Through the agency of old friend Mike Peralta, Chief Deputy of Maricopa County (Ariz.), the hunky ex-history professor got a badge, a gun and, according to some, a sinecure: a case list of undemanding, go-through-the-motions ice-cold no-hopers. But Mapstone was about to get lucky 58 years after the twin four-year-old grandsons of cattle baron Hayden Yarnell were abducted. The ransom was paid and the kidnapper eventually caught, but the children were never found. Almost by accident, Mapstone is on the scene when the little bodies are discovered in an abandoned building. As a consequence, he begins a pro forma investigation that suddenly intensifies when it becomes clear that the man convicted and executed for the crime could not possibly have committed it—and when it becomes equally clear that the rich and powerful Yarnell family is also secretive and dissembling.
The prose can go over the top now and then, but this fifth in the series (after Arizona Dreams, 2006, etc.)—tightly plotted, smartly paced and enlivened by dollops of enthusiastic sex—is purple-proof. Talton’s best yet.