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Also by Jon Talton

The David Mapstone Mysteries

Concrete Desert

Cactus Heart

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Dry Heat

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South Phoenix Rules

The Night Detectives

High Country Nocturne

The Bomb Shelter

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The Pain Nurse

Powers of Arrest

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Deadline Man: A Thriller

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Books. Change. Lives.

Copyright ยฉ 2021 by Jon Talton

Cover and internal design ยฉ 2021 by Sourcebooks

Cover design by The BookDesigners

Cover images ยฉ Ivan Kurmyshov/Shutterstock, Virrage Images/Shutterstock

Sourcebooks, Poisoned Pen Press, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systemsโ€”except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviewsโ€”without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Apart from well-known historical figures, any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

All brand names and product names used in this book are trademarks, registered trademarks, or trade names of their respective holders. Sourcebooks is not associated with any product or vendor in this book.

Published by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Talton, Jon, author.

Title: City of dark corners / Jon Talton.

Description: Naperville, Illinois : Poisoned Pen Press, [2021]

Identifiers: LCCN 2020036126 | (trade paperback) | (epub)

Subjects: GSAFD: Mystery fiction.

Classification: LCC PS3620.A58 C58 2021 | DDC 813/.6--dc23

LC record available at


Front Cover

Title Page


A Note on Language





























Authorโ€™s Note

Excerpt from The Bomb Shelter


About the Author

Back Cover

For Susan

A Note on Language

This novel is set in America of nearly a century ago. I have generally used the vernacular of that era. But readers should be aware that this included commonly employed racial epithets that would be highly offensive today. Even polite references to ethnicity or gender in this era would sound hurtful or disrespectful to twenty-first-century ears and sensibilities.

โ€”Jon Talton



Night folded in early during the winter.

It was only half past six, the neon of the auto courts and curio shops on Van Buren Street giving way to the emptiness of the Tempe Road, indigo pushing against my headlights as I drove east. Only a few other cars were about.

Cars were fewer in general than they had been only a few years ago and seemed to fit the new times: fewer jobs, fewer businesses, fewer people getting by.

Just after crossing the bridge over the Grand Canal, I parked, shut off the Fordโ€™s purring V8, and stepped out. I pulled down my fedora close to my eyes, a habit I kept from my police days on the Hat Squad, stuck a Chesterfield in my mouth, and lit it with the Dunhill lighter brought back from London years ago. I buttoned my suit coat against the desert chill and walked toward the cottonwoods to the south, which loomed like storm clouds on a moonless night.

After walking beyond the trees, I was suddenly inside the camp. It held perhaps fifty denizens. Okies. Workers laid off from the closed copper mines. A miscellany of hoboes. It was outside the city limits and away from the attention of the cops. One of several Hoovervilles that had sprung up during the past three years. Hoover himself seemed ever more isolated and powerless, even though heโ€™d be in office until March. Calvin Coolidge just died. Hoover, the โ€œGreat Engineerโ€ who was so popular when he won in โ€™28, might have wished it were him instead. Now he was reviled and rejected.

In the camp, people kept to their clans. The Okies drawn and clad in tattered clothing, the miners with beaten-down faces and muscular bodies in canvas pants, they clustered around campfires and next to cars on their last miles.

Charity wasnโ€™t to be much found in Phoenix now; everyone from the county to the churches, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs was tapped out. The Municipal Woodyard to provide help to the โ€œworthy local unemployedโ€ was struggling. Businesses continued to close and lay people off. The lettuce harvest and shipping were complete. Only pink grapefruits were being picked, boxed, and shipped now through March. Any new work in the fields and groves was months away. Maybe some of the travelers would make it to California, the promised land, by road or freight train.

Even with the nighttime cold, the weather was better now than back east. It would be different come summer, and the population of the hobo jungles would plummet.

The campfires glared at gaunt faces. Beyond the next stand of trees, a Southern Pacific freight train trundled past eastbound, shaking the ground, the smoke of its locomotive rising into the night sky. I saw a young man watch it as if it was the fanciest passenger train, only awaiting his presence in the parlor car.

And me? I had a photograph and a hunch and a pocket of dimes. It was my job.

โ€œHey, buddy, you look too well dressed to be here.โ€

He came out of the shadows and had friends. He was almost my height and had a face that looked like a dry desert river: brown, pocked, and creased by lines that shifted as he spoke.

โ€œWell, here I am,โ€ I said, handing him a dime and showing him the photo. He kept staring at me, and I noticed what looked like silver rings on every finger of his right hand. But I knew better and unbuttoned my coat.

โ€œWho dares not stir by day must walk by night.โ€

This came from a rail of a man at his right. He held out his arms as if to fly, then bowed. A thespian.

I ignored him and focused on the big man. His eyes were as barren as an abandoned house. I nodded toward the photograph. โ€œHave

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