South Phoenix Rules - Jon Talton Got this free as an advanced reader copy.

It’s hot. Gasoline is running in short supply. Tempers are ready to flare. Gangs are at each others’ throats. Foreclosures are rampant. And deputy David Mapstone Maricopa County sheriff’s department historian has been called back into uniform duty due to cutbacks. Mapstone combines his skills as a historian with law enforcement knowledge to solve cold cases.

In this page-turner, Mapstone’s sister-in-law (David’s wife, Lindsay Faith has moved to Washington to take a job with Homeland Security) has been dating a sociologist from NYU, Jax. She’s been living in Mapstone’s garage apartment and one evening receives a package from him. Inside is Jax’s severed head. Mapstone, who was in the process of resigning from the department to return to teaching following his mentor non-re-election for sheriff, soon learns that NYU has no record of Jax and that he may have really been a notorious assassin.

David’s boss, Peralta, warns him he needs to protect Robin from the gangsters who sent the head. Then David notices that Robin is wearing a necklace that has blood on the back. In a confrontation, she admits that the chain, which has two dog-tags attached, bith dating from WW II and belonging to a Nisei soldier, was in the box with the head. Did she scream before or after she took the chain from the box, David wonders. Then it turns out Jax was ATF. David is soon in the midst of a jungle of mistaken identity, murder and mayhem.

Phoenix does not come off well. “[It] was increasingly a freak show. Ted Williams’ head was frozen in Scottsdale, waiting for the day the slugger could be regenerated. Unfortunately some employees decided to use his noggin for batting practice. The richest man in town didn’t support the arts, but he spent money to try cloning his dead dog. A disgraced former governor remade himself as a pastry chef. It was a city where a man left his wife by killing her and his children and then blowing up his suburban house, where a woman cut up her lover and left him in a dumpster.”

Excellent story with a nice blend of history and investigation and a great read.