Jon Talton,
High Country Nocturne: A David Mapstone Mystery
(Poisoned Pen Press, 2015)

High Country Nocturne is a very exciting novel, and if done with a lighter hand it'd be a farce ... but it's too noir and black for that. Still, the intricate interwoven plot elements remind me of such.

While this novel is well into author Jon Talton's David Mapstone series, and I have not read prior books in it, Talton gave me enough background woven into the plot to catch up -- though I may well read previous volumes for more depth.

The basic plot is a very complicated diamond heist. Add in federal and local agencies who do not necessarily know even what their own outfit is doing, let alone anyone else's; Russian mobsters; an independent and all-too-skillful hitwoman; and schemes within schemes, and betrayal of one kind or another is pretty much inevitable. I think this plot works well.

The secondary plots, though, did not make much sense to me. The case that suckered our protagonist in had me saying "huh?" at the supposed resolution, when the framing could not possibly have worked as the framer intended.

OK, I guess that's realistic, but it does not make good fiction.

The positive and dubious characters are well-drawn and complex, and one does end up caring about them, even when they seem to be acting inexplicably. The Bad 'Uns, however, are more like cliches, including our hitwoman.

It's set in Phoenix AZ, which is a character in its own right, and both the present and its past are evoked beautifully.

This book is recommended for Phoenix fans, and for people who like complicated plots with a fairly grim perspective.

book review by
Amanda Fisher

19 December 2015

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