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Desert Lost
Lena Jones Mystery, No 6

by Betty Webb


Arizona private investigator Lena Jones is on a rather routine assignment trying to pin down a few vandals when she makes a much more significant discovery... a dead body. Someone has dumped the lifeless victim behind the establishment that Lena was assigned to watch and she recognizes the clothing and hairstyle as that of a "sister-wife" from one of the polygamist colonies that dot the western states. But Lena is unaware of any such cult in the vicinity.

With the help of an escaped "sister-wife" Lena traces the murdered woman to a society known as Second Zion about three hundred miles away. But how did she get here? Is Second Zion expanding its territory? Lena uncovers a satellite colony right in her own back yard.

The investigation draws Lena further into the seedy world of polygamy and at the same time, she’s trying to stabilize her own tenuous relationship with Warren, her Hollywood-type boyfriend. As if to add more distraction to her life, Lena’s former foster mother, who Lena thought was dead, shows up on her doorstep for a tearful reunion. It doesn’t end there either. Angel, Warren’s ex-wife and Lena’s friend is being revisited by a stalker who has been recently released from jail. Lena feels compelled to help Angel as well.

Polygamists value women only as producers of revenue generating children. Government assistance checks grow as the head count goes up. Girls born into the cult are kept around as breeding machines but boys become a liability as soon as they are old enough to be expunged from the financial aid rolls. It’s a tragic existence for anyone born into their culture.

Lena encounters some of the "lost boys" who have been expelled from the society and thrown, woefully unprepared, into the city streets. It becomes obvious that they are no better off than the young girls who are kept behind to function as baby producers. It’s an evil society and Lena is determined to bring it down.

Meanwhile she’s flying back and forth between Arizona and California, fighting the polygamists as well as trying to help Angel keep the stalker at bay. And along the way, Lena’s foster mother is kidnapped.

Author Betty Webb has created, in Lena Jones, the ultimate multi-tasker. With all of the challenges in front of her, I don’t know how this woman can even manage to keep the names straight. But she does it and she keeps her composure and sense of logic intact at all times. This story is non-stop action from beginning to end. All of the characters are dynamic yet all have a very human side. This book is a must read.

Other reviews in this series

Desert Noir, No 1
Desert Wives, No 2
Desert Shadows, No 3
Desert Run
, No 4
Desert Cut
, No 5
Desert Lost, No 6
Desert Wind, No 7

The Book

Poisoned Pen Press
December 2009
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The Reviewer

Dennis Collins
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Dennis Collins is the author of The Unreal McCoy and the second installment in this series, Turn Left at September. He's also's "Between the Pages" columnist, covering the mystery genre and related topics.
© 2009