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Scottsdale author Betty Webb discusses new Lena Jones mystery, ‘Desert Rage’

Scottsdale author Betty Webb has a new Lena Jones mystery due out in October: “Desert Ridge.”
Scottsdale author Betty Webb has a new Lena Jones mystery due out in October: “Desert Ridge.”
Photographer: Doris Nehrbass

Scottsdale, Ariz., author Betty Webb is known for her two mystery series: the humorous Gunn Zoo mysteries and the best-selling Lena Jones books. Webb recently agreed to answer some questions for Examiner about her latest book, “Desert Rage,” a Lena Jones mystery available for preorder now and due out Oct. 7.

Q: Can you give us a preview of what “Desert Rage” is about?

A: The torture/murders of a prominent doctor, his wife, and their ten-year-old son inside their Scottsdale home bring Arizona Congresswoman Juliana Thorsson to private investigator Lena Jones. The slain family’s 14-year-old, Alison, and her boyfriend, Kyle, have confessed to the murders. Thorsson wants to hire Lena to discover if Alison is telling the truth, but before accepting the job, Lena demands to know why a fiercely ambitious rising political star wants to involve herself with the fate of a girl she’s never met. Desperate for Lena’s help, Thorsson reveals her explosive secret—that Alison is the candidate’s biological daughter, a fact she’s kept hidden for years. But that’s not all. Thorsson then confides something even more unusual than a mere hidden pregnancy, something that could ruin her political plans forever. While still in college, Thorsson confesses, she answered a newspaper ad and sold her eggs to a laboratory that would use them for artificial insemination (in vitro fertilization). If news of this leaks out, she is convinced it will ruin her plans for running for the U.S. Senate.

Q: What made you choose this subject matter?

A: Several years ago, I was working in the publicity department at Paradise Valley Community College when I saw a flyer on a hallway bulletin board. A local company wanted to buy the “eggs” of young college women to be used in the in vitro fertilization process (what is more commonly known as “test tube” babies). This procedure has become increasingly popular with women who are finding it difficult to become pregnant. As writers tend to do, I thought about that flyer through the years—wondering what kind of young woman would sell her eggs, what the process would be like, and what would be the result if later on, she found out that the child resulting from that process had admitted to a shocking crime. We’re used to reading about sperm donors, but I’d seen very little written about egg donors and what they might feel after the process is over. So I did a pile of research, and finally felt ready to tackle the subject head-on. Then, while writing “Desert Rage,” I began to ask myself, “What is a mother?” and the answer I came up with surprised me.

Q: You’re said that a reviewer mixed up some of the facts in the book. Do you want to talk about that?

A: The reviewer apparently confused the 14-year-old Ali with my ex-cop detective Lena Jones! Those two, besides being more than 20 years apart in age, had very, very different childhoods. Ali had what could pass for an ideal childhood, while Lena was raised in foster homes, some of which were very abusive.

Q: How can readers preorder “Desert Ridge”?

A: Any good bookstore can preorder “Desert Rage,” but I’ll be signing the book Saturday, Oct. 18, 2 p.m., at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, 4014 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale, Ariz.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: This is the eighth book in the Lena Jones series, which started back in 2000 with “Desert Noir.” Actually, if you count my novella, “Desert Deceit,” which was in the anthology “Dangerous Journeys,” published by Harlequin Worldwide Library, it’s the ninth Lena Jones book.

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