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Book Review: Desert Cut by Betty Webb

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Betty Webb, author of Desert Wives, a mystery that exposed polygamy in Arizona, has written another powerful mystery, Desert Cut. I was shocked and outraged, and most readers will be horrified when they read Webb's story, one that exposes a cruel practice affecting millions of girls.

Lena Jones was scouting movie locations in southern Arizona, when she uncovered the mutilated body of a young black girl. The child's body brought back Lena's memories of her own haunted childhood. As an ex-cop and private investigator, she was determined to find answers to the death of the young girl dubbed "Precious."

However, Lena met resistance in the small town of Los Perdidos. After discovering that another young girl had disappeared, she found a town sheltering refugees from Somalia, Egypt, and other countries in Africa and the Mideast. Lena encountered a charlatan running a non-denominational church, two child predators, and a culture of racism in a town symbolic of Arizona's past and present history. The sheriff is convinced that Lena has stirred up the community, when two more girls disappear, and vigilante justice turns to murder.

Although Lena Jones seems unnaturally obsessed with a case that she hasn't been hired to investigate, Webb reveals enough of Lena's childhood that the reader accepts that obsession. She takes child abuse personally because of her own background. She's the victim of a gunshot wound from a mother who disappeared and left her to make her way through a series of foster homes.

Once again, Betty Webb paints a picture of Arizona as a beautiful state, with a violent past, and, at times, a violent present. Her journalistic background allows her to rip a brutal, tragic story from the newspaper. Her skills as a mystery writer allow her to tell that story through the eyes of Lena Jones, a woman whose heart bleeds for innocent children. Desert Cut is a story that should be read by anyone concerned with human rights, and the rights of children.

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