When Betty Webb takes us into Lena Jones' Arizona world, the mysteries are always powerful and disturbing. They blend Lena's own past and her passion for the truth, with a violent contemporary crime in today's Arizona. Desert Rage may be Webb's best so far.
The police had already wrapped up the case involving the slaying of the Cameron family by the time Lena Jones from Desert Investigations is called in to reexamine the evidence. A Scottsdale doctor, his wife, and his ten-year-old son were brutally beaten and killed. His fourteen-year-old daughter, Ali, and her boyfriend, Kyle, have confessed to the crime. But, U.S. Representative Juliana Thorsson wants Lena to keep digging. When pressed, she admits she's actually Ali's biological mother. Thorsson may be an ambitious political candidate, but, she has secrets that could destroy her political career. However, she wants the true killer brought to justice. She's convinced her daughter isn't a killer.
With her own troubled childhood, Lena can understand the two teens, and doubts that they were capable of committing the heinous murders. Together with her business partner, Pima Indian Jimmy Sisiwan, Lena searches for answers in the Cameron family's past. It's Jimmy who digs up an unusual clue that may lead to the killer. But, it's Lena's actions that threaten to destroy Desert Investigations, and endanger her life.
Webb's latest mystery succeeds on so many fronts. Once again, Lena's own mysterious past plays into the current case, and plays havoc with her life. Lena is a tough, determined investigator, but she still suffers from her troubled childhood, still longs for answers, and remains afraid to connect with people, or ask for help when she needs it. She wants to help two troubled teens, but remains unable to help, or get help, for herself.
Betty Webb herself mentioned that a secondary storyline almost took over the book. She's right, but, what a fascinating secondary storyline! She's an expert at misleading the reader, while providing clues, and a perfect ending. I can't say more without giving too much away, but any reader will admire the author's storytelling after finishing this book.
It becomes a cliche to say a story is ripped from the headlines, but Webb is so skilled in presenting a mystery that feels as if it was a nonfiction account of a murder and subsequent investigation. Every detail is perfect for this story. And, the story is realistic not only in the story of the crime and Lena's search for answers. Webb's Arizona setting is pitch-perfect. She knows every street, every town she describes in vivid detail. The hot, dusty Arizona climate is perfect for creating the atmosphere of Desert Rage.
Betty Webb has changed lives and laws with her Lena Jones mysteries before. Desert Rage isn't that type of story. But, in my opinion, it's her most powerful story yet, a riveting story of crime, and the search for truth.
Betty Webb's website is www.bettywebb-mystery.com
Desert Rage by Betty Webb. Poisoned Pen Press. 2014. ISBN 9781464203107 (hardcover), 402p. (Also available in large prin, ebook, and trade paperback.)
FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.