City of Dark Corners

Mysterious Book Report No. 449

by John Dwaine McKenna

The horrific death of a beautiful young college coed that takes place in the burgeoning city of Phoenix, Arizona during the spring of 1933 is the focus of a dandy new novel that’s written in the best pulp fiction traditions of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

City of Dark Corners, (Poisoned Pen, PB, $15.99, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-4642-1325-0), by Jon Talton, features an honorable, smart and much respected Phoenix PD homicide detective who’s turned private investigator after refusing to give false testimony in a controversial murder case that sent a woman to death row.  His name is Gene Hammons.

As the story begins, Gene Hammons is picked up by his brother Don—also a police detective, but one with a tarnished character—and taken to the scene of a gruesome, and strange death.  It’s where the body of an unidentified young and pretty woman was found dismembered, alongside the tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad . . . the line that operates the famed Sunset Limited, luxury Pullman Car service to California.  The cops are calling it ‘suspicious’ at first and theorize that the woman fell from the train and was cut into pieces by the wheels.  The police detectives want a quick solution and a fast closure of the case, but Hammons can tell at a glance that she was murdered, because there’s no blood on the tracks.  The case takes on a sinister twist a moment later when Don, the Phoenix cop, surreptitiously passes his brother Gene, one of the PI’s own business cards, which he found in the woman’s purse . . . and stole  to protect his brother.  And so begins Private Eye Gene Hammons’s fight to solve the heinous murder and keep himself out of prison.  It’s a crime no one—not the well connected, nor the criminal class want solved—and one of the best Depression-era crime capers since Sam Spade tried to hunt down the Maltese Falcon!


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