Saturday, June 21, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Desert Noir by Betty Webb

This book does indeed include noir elements as the title might suggest.

Anyone who has ever lived in the Phoenix area will recognize much of the setting. Longtime residents will appreciate the author's commentary on the changes to their hometown. The Phoenix area has changed over the years from a "big town" with clean air, wide vistas, and low crime to a sprawling metropolis with smog and the usual big city problems. The author's own heartbreak over these unflattering changes is evident through her main character, Lena.

Lena Jones is a likeable wiseass investigator who tries not to think about her tragic childhood in the foster care system. She has patchy memories of her own parents and life with them before becoming a ward of the state. She begins the book as an atheist, but a strange mystical experience in the desert as she struggles to survive leads her to believe there is something more than what is on the everyday surface of life. She's not sure what it is or what to call it, but it serves to help her avoid a consuming hatred and bitterness when faced with the evil actions of others. She is able to see the sad and tragic souls buried beneath ugly and criminal behavior and it is this that allows her to do her job compassionately.

As a first novel, I found the plot well crafted and the characters affective (yes, I do mean affective); the author makes you feel something, sometimes strongly, for each of her characters. I was a bit disappointed in the rather high number of "typos" the publisher failed to correct before printing.

A well done regional mystery. I'll be back for more from this author.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Note to other reviewers: If you've written a review for this book, please let me know by posting the permanent URL for your review in the comments. I'll be happy to add a link to your review with my post.


  1. I was really hoping to get to this one this year--and I still might, right? You never know. :-) I am looking forward to reading it. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  2. literary feline: I can't wait to see what you think! I really like her books. I'm a bit biased since I grew up and still go back for visits to the area she uses in her books, but I do think the books really are good. I wish they would proof the books better though -- too many errors.