Monday, February 22, 2016

12. Desert Shadows - Betty Webb

#3 Lena Jones, Phoenix PI
read on my iPhone
2004/2006, Poisoned Pen Press
280 pgs.
Adult murder mystery
Finished 2/22/16
Goodreads rating:  3.82
My rating: 4
Setting:Contemporary Phoenix, AZ

First line/s:  "Gloriana Alden-Taylor wasn't exactly satisfied.  The word rarely appeared in her personal lexicon, but with two new titles due out, Patriot's Blood Press by the end of the week, she felt, at a minimum, gratified."

My comments:  Good mystery, and more unraveling of Lena's own mysterious story.  The setting, of Scottsdale, is somewhat known to me, and I think I'll make sure that on my next adventure that far north I'll take book number 4 with me so that I can check out some of the actual places she talks about!

Goodreads synopsis from Reviewer "Stuart": (The Goodreads synopsis is weirdly misleading, as he also notes...)  This is the third Lena Jones mystery, though only the first I have read. In this story, sub-titled “Publishing can be Murder”, Lena investigates the death of publisher Scottsdale publisher Gloriana Alden-Taylor, who was poisoned at the annual Southwestern Publishers' Convention. She is drawn in to the case because a Pima Indian friend has been accused of the murder.
Gloriana’s publishing house delivers primarily racist texts, so the field is rife with people who may have wanted to kill her, including her grandson, who stands to inherit the publishing house, and who plans to change its direction completely. One of the authors about to be published is a death row inmate, with his own brand of racist drivel, a tract endorsed by the Aryan Brotherhood, whose leaflets Lena encounters everywhere, but which seemingly do not really add anything to the story. I think that’s something that may have been edited out. 
Gloriana turns out to be a complex woman drive by her desires, one of which was her enduring need to secure the genes of her ancestry, from the Mayflower and from President Zachary Taylor. She also turns out not so much to believe in the racism in her books, but in their ability to sell. I was a little annoyed by the digs at the commercial nature of publishing (no-one publishes literature any more, only what sells etc) – perhaps the author has an axe to grind there? 
The book also explores more of Lena’s personal history, she having been brought up in several foster homes, having apparently been shot by her mother at the age of four. She is working out anger management issues with a psychiatrist, and as she does so, we learn more about her past, a story in its own right. And then there is the on/off relationship with her ex-husband, which leads to dangerous encounters, and which will no doubt be a theme of subsequent books. 
The prime suspects end up being the people (publishers) who shared Gloriana’s table at the last dinner of the conference. Lena, who is a private detective and thus has a valid reason for investigating, unlike some others I have read recently (librarians), chases down these suspects, at the risk to her own life at one point. I didn’t feel that all that much detecting went on, however. When the criminal eventually appears, it’s by accident, Lena having focused on the wrong person. That’s not the way to endear me to an author’s work.
However, it was an easy read, and there is a lot in it. I felt it could have been stitched together better – it felt a little choppy, not really smoothly moving towards a conclusion.
PS I felt that the Goodreads summary was misleading, even getting Gloriana’s surname wrong, and as the surname was key to the plot, I was surprised. Perhaps taken from an earlier description; the same applies to the Aryan Brotherhood stuff, which seemed to add little to the story, but which was referenced in the Goodreads blurb also.:

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