Although Betty Webb’s Desert Rage is the eighth in her Lena Jones series, readers can come to it comfortably without having read the other seven. They should be warned, however, that having read it, they may well feel the need to go back and enjoy Jones’ past adventures.
Jones, an ex-policewoman, now a private eye working in the heat of Scottsdale, Arizona, is the kind of engaging central figure likely to appeal to mystery readers. Product of a foster home after being shot as a child, victim of a rape, she is emotionally vulnerable, while at the same time thoroughly committed to dealing with criminals. She gets a case, and it consumes her. She is interested in justice and is not beyond breaking the rules to make sure justice is served. She is no weak sister; this is a woman who can handle herself even though she may get roughed up badly in the process. Combining vulnerability, strength and a passion for the right, she is as exciting a heroine as any of her male counterparts.
In Desert Rage, she is hired by a local political star, Juliana Thorsson, to investigate the torture murder of the family of a local emergency room doctor, murders confessed to by the doctor’s 14 year old daughter and her boyfriend. Thorsson doesn’t believe she is guilty and wants Jones to find out the truth. Unclear about Thorsson’s motives, Lena is as curious about what her interest really is as she is about the legitimacy of the teen’s confessions. It doesn’t take long for her to conclude that the confessions are bogus and begin the search for the real killer.
Thematically, the book deals with the question of justice and vengeance — personal and public. It focuses on capital punishment and its effects, and places it in the context of individuals seeking their own revenge on a number of levels. At the same time it looks at family relations and asks what it is that makes for real motherhood. Is it in the genes? Is it in the rearing of the child? What are the effects of the state programs of foster care? Webb, it seems, has the ability to layer her thrillers with significant social and political themes.
Desert Rage is a solidly plotted crime thriller that may not always surprise you, but will likely satisfy you with its revelations.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1464203121]