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Murder at Thumb Butte

James D. Best

Reviewed by:
On November 1, 2011
Last modified:September 29, 2012


Murder at Thumb Butte is another great western by James Best. This one takes place right here in Arizona. Best weaves historic people and places seamlessly into his story and leaves you waiting eagerly for the next installment.

Murder At Thumb Butte by James BestLast week I reviewed Leadville, and mentioned how I’d read it on a plane ride back to Arizona from the east coast.  On the same trip, I was glad to have its sequel, Murder at Thumb Butte which I made it half way through before we landed.  I turned down the brightness on the iPad to conserve power, since I didn’t want to run out of juice!

On getting home, after an exhausting trip, I went to bed.  But the first thing Saturday morning, I plugged the iPad into the charger and proceeded to finish the latest in Jim’s Steve Dancy series.  Once again, Dancy and his friend Sharp are in the saddle, this time heading for Arizona.  After a brief stop at the Grand Canyon, they wind up in Prescott.

Sharp lands a doozy of a haymaker on the jaw of his former partner, which sets him up as the prime suspect for this sleezeball’s murder.  It’s up to Dancy to prove his innocence, in what looks like an open and shut case.  Conviction will mean that Sharp hangs for a murder he didn’t commit.

Dancy’s old friend McAllen helps to solve the mystery along with Sheriff Earp (of Tombstone fame).  Doc Holliday, and John C. Fremont also appear in the story.  Best does a great job of weaving historic Prescott into the story with accurate depictions of well-known features like Whiskey Row, the court house, Gurley Street, and other famous locales in the historic town.  It’s clear he’s been there and mapped out his story accordingly.  The great thing about this is that this part of Prescott looks much the same as it did then.

The story itself is as good, if not better than the first two books in the series.  Best adds interest with the precocious daughter of McAllen (rescued in Leadville), who plays a good Nancy Drew-like character.  Most of the action takes place in an around Prescott, but there is a quick trip to Wickenburg, where Best weaves in a little more local history.

Best concludes Murder at Thumb Butte with at least two possible directions for his next installment.  Things aren’t going well in Leadville and his friends there are in trouble.  Meanwhile, Dancy has business in Menlo Park.  I can hardly wait.


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