“Desert Redemption” by Betty Webb is the tenth and final installment in the “Lena Jones Mystery” series. Regular readers will anxiously read for the wrap up of several backstories. New readers should not be discouraged; “Desert Redemption” can be enjoyed on its own, and Webb has included all the background information necessary to follow along with the exploits of Lena and Jimmy.
Lena Jones and Jimmy Sisiwan are living in an Airstream on the wild expanse of the Salt River Pima / Maricopa Indian Reservation with their horses and cats. Jimmy is building a house, a three-bedroom house, just for them. Lena and Jimmy are partners in Desert Investigations. Lena, like most former foster kids, does not handle the change well, even when the change is for the better, but she is devoted to Jimmy.
“I still couldn’t figure out why it had taken me so long to love him, why I’d taken so many side roads with so many men. Thank God— who maybe did exist, after all— I’d finally come to my senses.”
The story is character driven, and the action is presented in Lena’s first-person narrative. Readers learn about people she meets and places she goes through her conversations and observations. In alternating chapters, she recounts dreams, memories, and nightmares from thirty-five years earlier. It is now time for Lena to face her past, and she finally retrieves the cardboard banker’s box of childhood memories that had been temporarily shoved away.
Every day, Desert Investigations fields phone calls from the artists, residents, parents, politicians, and general Scottsdale citizenry who have been “done wrong.” Harold Slow Horse, a friend, is worried that his ex-wife has become involved with a cult masquerading as a retreat or health resort for new back-to-the-landers who want to get off the grid. The daughter of a local political candidate has disappeared along with her boyfriend. The body of an unidentified young woman has been found on the Res. Multiple investigations weave in and out of the story, interlinking and deviating as Lena and Jimmy explore the social problems, criminal activities, and personal tragedies that bring clients to Desert Investigations. They diligently search, but find more questions than answers. Difficulties intensify; the body count escalates, and not every investigation has a successful conclusion.
Through Webb’s words, the beauty and the geography of the area jump from every page.
“Mother Nature’s wild citizens, wilder even than the local teens, greeted the day’s glory with joy and trepidation. Ground squirrels, jackrabbits, and deer mice scurried between various kinds of cacti, while a chorale of birds sang from mesquite and ironwood trees. In the lightening sky above, a bald eagle drifted along a thermal, deciding which scurrying creature to kill first.”
In “Desert Redemption,” Webb brings a startling closure to Lena’s troubled past and things might just finally work out for Lena. I was given a review copy of “Desert Redemption” by Betty Webb and Poisoned Pen Press. The book has a nice shout-out to “Y Is for Yesterday” as Lena reads Sue Grafton’s final book, and laments that she must say farewell to Kinsey Millhone, as do we all. Alas, it is time for readers to say goodbye Lena Jones as well, ten wonderful books, and many, many wonderful stories