Desert Rage: A Lena Jones Mystery By Betty Webb

Nov 1, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to enter to win a copy of Desert Rage at the end of this review, along with a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL.

Children have always been a weak spot for Scottsdale private investigator Lena Jones. Considering her own upbringing in a series of abusive foster homes, that’s not too surprising. Even Lena has reservations, though, when she’s asked by the ultra-conservative, left-wing, and possible Senatorial candidate Juliana Thorsson to investigate the murder of the Cameron family, committed by the fourteen year-old daughter and her boyfriend. Thorsson has a potentially politically-damning reason for wanting to clear the girl, though. To pay her college tuition the Arizona congresswoman sold her eggs to a fertility clinic—the accused murderer, Alison Cameron, is her biological daughter.

The torture and murder of Dr. Arthur Cameron, his wife, their ten year-old son, and the family dog was horrific. The fact that both Allison Cameron and Kyle Gibbs have confessed, makes this a case no one should attempt to defend. Juliana Thorsson’s determination to prove Allison innocent, regardless of the political implications, have Lena a reluctant admirer of both the rigid politician and the rebellious, independent

The police stopped their investigation with the teens’ confessions. Desert Investigations soon discovers Dr. Cameron’s side occupation that, if known, would have made him a target for numerous mourning and vengeful families.

Distracting Lena on the homefront is a parking dispute with the steroid-infused driver of a Hummer whose temper will have a devastating impact on Lena’s sense of security.

The violence of the crime is graphic and the damage done to Lena and other foster children is extremely disturbing, yet author Webb still succeeds in making this seventh in the series enjoyable and a pleasure to read. Much of this rests on the shoulders of Lena Jones, a character who has fought through the memories of being shot and left for dead by her mother. She was sent to live with sexually and physically abusive foster parents and still suffers from violent PSTD nightmares. Lena is acerbic, witty, and entirely too reckless for her own good, especially when it comes to rescuing and protecting other children.

Lena had one devoted and beloved foster mother, who, along with Lena’s investigative partner Jimmy Sisiwan, do what they can to protect Lena from her own impulsive activities. Even they can be outsmarted by the skilled liar with a flexible relationship with the law.

Webb also achieves the challenging goal of presenting both sides of the death penalty without preaching or lecturing. As Webb sees it, it is an imperfect and monstrous system that nevertheless destroys monsters. Desert Wives was one of the first books I ever read from Poisoned Pen Press. Both the author and the publisher continue to impress me with reliable high quality and impressively written books. The serious topics of Desert Rage never override what is ultimately a very touching, complicated, and often funny mystery featuring a headstrong heroine relentless in her dedication to protecting her friends while meting out her own form of justice.

To enter to win a copy of Desert Rage, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Rage,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 8, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Click on this link to purchase this book & a portion goes to help support KRL!

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).


  1. I have my copy of Desert Wives behind me. I also found that novel a challenge because of the graphic / realistic scenes, but Webb pulled them off and I kept reading.

  2. This series consistently gives me food for thought.

  3. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher


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