Desert Vengeance

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What to expect

When the man who raped Scottsdale private investigator Lena Jones when she was a nine-year-old foster child is released from prison, Lena is waiting for him in the parking lot—with a big knife. “Papa” Brian Wycoff survives their meeting, but the next day, his wife, who knew about his crimes but did nothing to stop him—in fact enabled him—is found dead in their Apache Junction home, shot through both eyes. Terrified he will be next, Wycoff violates his parole and flees north to the small town of Black Canyon City, taking shelter in an RV on his brother-in-law’s small ranch. A couple of days later, he is found tortured to death, eight horizontal marks burned into his flesh. One for each of his victims?

Suspicion first falls upon Lena, who has trailed Wycoff to Black Canyon City to make sure he doesn’t come near any other children. When the local authorities arrive to question her, she admits to having been tempted to kill her former foster father but that someone beat her to the punch. Suspicion then falls on Wycoff’s other victims, the now-grown men and women he abused when they were still in his care, and on the mothers of the children who went missing before his arrest.

When Lena takes up the case, more to protect one of the mothers who has been arrested than to find the real killer, her conscience is torn. Does a serial child rapist, a pedophile also implicated in the disappearance of several children, really deserve justice? That choice might not be left up to Lena when members of a local group, Parents of Missing Children, start working to prevent her investigation from succeeding. How far will they go to make sure she fails?

Critics Review

  • “[Lena’s] inquiries and the way her moral decisions affect her make for compelling reading. Webb offers fans the profound pleasure of watching Lena mature as she comes one step closer to understanding and accepting her difficult past, while providing new readers with an introduction to this strong and genuinely likable character.”

    Publishers Weekly
  • “Webb, no stranger to hot-button issues, takes on child molestation in a page-turner that presents both her flawed heroine and the reader with plenty of challenges to their moral codes.”

    Kirkus Reviews
  • “Webb’s pithy first-person narration cuts to the chase without a lot of filler, making Desert Vengeance a pleasure to read. Though lean and mean, the prose carries enough quirk and nuance to convey the protagonist’s distinct, cheeky voice. Lena Jones is tough yet vulnerable, irreverent and sarcastic, yet dead serious at times. She’s the flawed hero one can’t help but love. Webb depicts her evenhandedly in terms of balanced characterization, and in relating her to the setting. The Arizona desert and its touristy towns offer up a strange bonanza of desert tropes, and Webb mines them with enough restraint to strengthen, rather than overshoot, her themes of loss and retribution.”

    Shelf Awareness

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