Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cactus Heart by Jon Talton

Title: Cactus Heart
Author: Jon Talton
ISBN: 9781590585849, Poisoned Pen Press, 2008
Genre: Police Procedural, #5 David Mapstone mystery
Rating: B-

First Line: Throughout history, the desert has been a place of trial, penance, and hard-won revelation.

In the fifth mystery involving Maricopa County sheriff's deputy David Mapstone, we're taken back to Phoenix, Arizona in 1999. Christmas is only a few weeks away, and the subject on most people's lips is Y2K.

Recently hired by the Sheriff's Office, things don't start out well for Mapstone. He chases a robber into an abandoned warehouse and stumbles across the bodies of two young children-- the remains of a sixty-year-old crime.

Just before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Arizona and the nation were shocked by the kidnapping of a cattle baron's grandsons. The bodies of the children had never been found, and although the kidnapper was caught and executed, Mapstone begins digging up evidence that shows justice was far from being served. When the evidence starts coming to light, people begin to die once more.

This is a favorite series of mine that almost wasn't. When I read the first book, I was so irritated with Mapstone's whining about the heat that I almost didn't pick up the next book. Fortunately for me, I gave him another chance and haven't looked back since.

Talton is a former Phoenix resident who remembers what the place was like Before and isn't a fan of After. Having his main character be an historian lets Talton share his love of a younger Phoenix and the things that made it unique. He can even wax poetic about the weather from time to time:

When the winter rains come, the sidewalk restaurants move inside. The Fiesta Bowl promoters worry. The resorts cover up the pool furniture, and the snowbirds grumble. But we Phoenicians quietly exult-- that after all the punishing months of sun and heat, the sky brings back the healing water. That, after all, the desert is God's chosen, sacred place.

Although I enjoyed another visit with Mapstone and his complicated personal life as well as another glimpse into Phoenix's past, I did have some problems with the plot. It was too easy to piece together the facts to identify the real culprit, and the entire subplot concerning a hot babe from the city archaeologist's office just had too many coincidences. I couldn't swallow it without the aid of a glass of water.

Cactus Heart was still an involving read that I would've devoured in a single sitting if left to my own devices. Talton has created living, breathing characters who inhabit a place that I love. I may have a quibble here and there about a subplot or a character whining about the heat, but as long as Talton writes, I'll continue to read.


  1. I bet it's fun to read a novel that takes place in an area you are familiar with.

  2. I love the waxing poetic part. I can actually imagine and smell how rewarding that rain must be. These books appeal to me for the sake of the characters. This guy sounds like a real person. I've got it on my library list.

  3. I'm ready to take on another series from the beginning - I'll have to check to see if my library has the first book in this series.

  4. Beth--It is...especially when the author gets it right! LOL

    Margot--This is the only place I've ever lived where people smile and say, "Isn't it a beautiful day?" when it's overcast and looks like rain. Mapstone does come across as a very real person, along with the other characters in the books. There's even a very bad guy in them who's been known to save the day. I'm glad you've got them on your library list. :)

    Belle--I hope it does!

  5. This author sounds familiar...I think he used to work with my former husband in Oklahoma at a newspaper.

  6. Bybee--I know that he's worked on various newspapers around the country, but I can't remember if Oklahoma was one of the places. Thanks for stopping by!


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