Saturday, February 25, 2012

Desert Wind by Betty Webb

On the jacket of Betty Webb's latest Lena Jones mystery, Desert Wind, David Morrell is quoted as saying, "A must-read." It is. Webb has tackled tough subjects before, everything from polygamy to genital mutilation on young girls, but Desert Wind may be her most controversial and powerful book yet. It's a book that should scare everyone living in the Southwest.

In 1954 in Snow Canyon, Utah, Gabe Boone was a horse wrangler on the set of the filming of The Conqueror, a film that starred John Wayne as Genghis Khan, and Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead. Gabe idolized Wayne, who treated all the cast and crew as friends, including the Paiute Indians. But, Gabe did notice that the red dust got in people's lungs, and there were even blisters in the mouths of the horses. The Paiutes themselves had blisters in their mouths. Although Gabe didn't realize it at the time, he was witnessing death.

Almost sixty years later, Lena Jones arrives at her office at Scottsdale, Arizona's Desert Investigations to find her partner, Jimmy Sisiwan, missing. Her uneasy feeling only grew when she received strange messages saying he'd be out for a week or longer, so she tracks him down in Walapai Flats in northwestern Arizona. His brother had been put in jail as a material witness in a murder, and now Jimmy is in jail as well. Lena interferes with Jimmy's plans, and takes it upon herself to find the person who killed the PR man for Black Basin Uranium Mine. The mine, just about to open, is controversial. Many of the residents hope for jobs at the mine, but Jimmy's sister-in-law, an outspoken opponent, was killed in a shooting, and that killer is still loose.

Lena finds resistance in the community, people unwilling to answer her questions. And, Gabe Boone, with his knowledge of the past, might have the key to reveal the secrets of Walapai Flats. Generations of lies and secrets, of scars,  may have led to murder in present-day Arizona.

Each time readers pick up a Lena Jones mystery, we hope to learn a little more about Lena's mysterious past. There have been glimpses into her traumatic childhood, and her time in foster homes. Webb still gives us a glimpse here and there in this book, but Lena's past isn't the focus of this latest crime novel.

Instead, this is about crime on a grand scale, with implications for all Americans, especially those of us who live in the Southwest, I'm not going to spoil Webb's story by giving away too much. She unravels the past beautifully, along with the repercussions. I'll just say, Desert Wind, the latest Lena Jones mystery, is powerful, political, and a book that serves as a warning. David Morrell is right. It truly is "A must-read."

Betty Webb's website is

Desert Wind by Betty Webb. Poisoned Pen Press. 2012. ISBN 978159089793 (hardcover), 318p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.


Beth Hoffman said...

You've grabbed my attention with this one!

Happy weekend to you and the kitties, Lesa!

Lesa said...

Happy weekend, Beth! And, you don't have to have read previous Lena Jones mysteries to read this one. I'd definitely recommend Desert Winds.

Margaret said...

It's on the top of my TBR pile. I didn't know, however, that it dealt with "The Conqueror." My family and I are film buffs and we have long talked about how many of the people associated with the film died of cancer, not realizing at the time that their participation in the film near atom bombs blast sites was going eventually to cause their deaths.

Good review, Lesa. Am trying to read faster, on the book I am now reading, so I can get into "Desert Wind."

Margaret Franson

Lesa said...

Ah, see, Margaret, by just mentioning "The Conqueror," you caught the underlying theme of Desert Wind. I didn't want to give too much away, as much as I wanted to talk about the film, the cancer, and the atom bomb testing. Great! You're going to love the book, and I'm sure other family members will as well.

Karen C said...

You got my attention, too and I'm putting on my list right now.