Saturday, February 25, 2012
Desert Wind by Betty Webb
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 www.bettywebb-mystery.com.
Desert Wind by Betty Webb. Poisoned Pen Press. 2012. ISBN 978159089793 (hardcover), 318p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.