History professor–turned–sheriff’s deputy David Mapstone celebrates the 40th anniversary of the only recorded murder of an American journalist on American soil by reopening the case, with decidedly mixed results.
In 1978, as he was carried from his burning car to the hospital where he’d die, Phoenix Gazette reporter Charles Page moaned, “They finally got me. Reid, Mafia, RaceCo! Find Mark Reid.” In response, Reid, the enforcer for Page’s old nemesis, land-fraud king Ned Warren, went to prison for planting the bomb that killed Page. So did roofing contractor Dick Kemperton, who detonated the device, and contractor Darren Howard, who allegedly paid for the hit. All of them are now too dead to implicate anyone else, but there have always been rumors that higher-ups like Warren or “wealthy rancher” Freeman Burke Sr., were behind the killing. In honor of its anniversary, Maricopa County Sheriff Mike Peralta, nettled by a text message that mixes taunts, threats, and Shakespeare tags, wants Deputy David Mapstone, who’s already solved 117 cold cases, to solve this one within three weeks. Dave’s wife, computer whiz Lindsey, is still recovering from a near-fatal shooting (High Country Nocturne, 2015), but that doesn’t stop her from identifying the owner of the phone that sent the text as Rudy Jarvis, Reid’s unacknowledged son, who gets killed when his own car explodes, setting off a string of “canonical” crimes that echo Page’s murder and a series of related outrages in the present tense. Working sometimes with, sometimes against history student Malik Jones, Dave plunges into a conspiracy that seems to involve every noted Arizona native from Bruce Babbitt to Barry Goldwater.
Talton continues to ladle out murky complications long after most patrons will be looking for the exit. Readers most likely to last till the final curtain are those with a serious interest in the real-life criminal history of Phoenix.