From Phoenix to Potshot to Purity: A List of Some of the Most Entertaining Mystery Novels Set in Arizona

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Check out the podcast based on this list!

This spring I’ve been honored to serve as the Arizona Writer in Residence at the Apache Junction Public Library. As a part of the residency, I did a program in March in which I discussed some of the most significant and entertaining crime novels set in Arizona. I’m now recording a series of podcasts highlighting some of those books, but there won’t be time to discuss all of them. For those who might be interested, here’s a complete list of the books I discussed in the March program.

This list is by no means complete; there are plenty of other crime novels that have been set in the state, but this should provide a good representative sample and you’ll find here books running the gamut from light, cozy mysteries to very dark, violent, hard boiled novels. Some of these books may be a bit hard to find, and not all of them are in the library, but they’re worth searching out.

Library Note: In the list below, some titles are linked. These links will take you to the Pinal County Library District catalog if the library district owns a copy of the book. Library patrons may put the titles on hold and request them from other libraries in the district.

  • Abbott, Megan, Bury Me Deep (2009). A fictional reimagination of the infamous Winnie Judd murder case.
  • Banks, Leo W., Double Wide (2017). Former major league phenom Prospero “Whip” Smart finds danger in the desert outside of Tucson.
  • Black, J. Carson, Darkness on the Edge of Town (2005). When the body of a young girl is found in a Bisbee city park, Arizona Department of Public Safety investigator Laura Cardinal comes up against a cunning Internet sexual predator.
  • Gunn, Elizabeth, Red Man Down (2014). Tucson Homicide detective Sarah Burke investigates the death of a fellow officer whose life has gone off the rails.
  • Hillerman, Tony, Skeleton Man (2004). Fifty years after two airliners collide above the Grand Canyon, Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police investigates the discovery of a missing diamond.
  • Jance, J. A., Deadly Stakes (2013). Former reporter Ali Reynolds attempts to sort out the murder of a recent divorcee.
  • Keene, Carolyn, The Secret of Shadow Ranch (1931). Nancy Drew attempts to solve mysteries new and old at a Phoenix dude ranch.
  • Maldonado, Isabella, Death Blow (2019). Phoenix homicide detective Veranda Cruz, tangles with a vicious Mexican drug cartel.
  • McKinlay, Jen. Dark Chocolate Demise (2015). Scottsdale cupcake bakeshop owners Melanie Cooper and Angie Delora must solve a murder that threatens them and their loved ones during the annual Scottsdale Zombie Walk.
  • Millikin, Patrick, ed. Phoenix Noir (2009). An excellent collection of noir-themed short stories set in and around the Phoenix metro area.
    Moore, Tim and Clark Lohr, Mirandized Nation (2015 [Non-fiction]). An intriguing look at the criminal career of Ernesto A. Miranda and the effect of his arrest and conviction on a rape charge on American constitutional law and on police procedure across the United States.
  • Parker, Robert B., Potshot (2001). Parker’s iconic P.I., Spenser, must find a killer and clean up the fictional town of Potshot, Arizona.
  • Reichenbaugh, Kurt, Last Dance in Phoenix (2015). Accountant Kent Starling finds trouble when he connects with a boyhood friend on social media.
  • Ring, Ray. Arizona Kiss (1991). A Tucson photojournalist suffers serious consequences when he falls for The Wrong Woman.
  • Sallis, James, The Killer Is Dying (2011). A beautifully written novel about three males of varying ages adjusting to the solitude and changing circumstances of their lives.
  • Schmierer, John, Gravedigger’s Moon (2011). While his wife lies gravely ill, lawyer Benjamin Holt must search for a missing heir.
  • Shadow, Steve, Wilted Streets: A Novella and Stories (2015). Novelist Billy Wilewski must outwit several bad guys and a number of federal agents when he finds himself in the frame for a murder.
  • Shane, C. J., Desert Jade (2017). Tucson private investigator Letty Valdez joins forces with Chinese police Detective Inspector Zhou Liang Wei, in a fast-paced thriller set in the Sonoran Desert.
  • Talton, Jon, Dry Heat (2004). Historian and sheriff’s deputy David Mapstone must unravel a decades-old mystery while he and his wife are hiding out from Russian mobsters.
  • Webb, Betty, Desert Wives (2006). Scottsdale P.I. Lena Jones goes undercover as a plural wife to solve a murder and save a young girl from being married off to the leader of a polygamous sect in the fictional town of Purity, Arizona.

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