Poisoned Pen, Jan 2003, 24.95, 302 pp.
Outside of the region, it's not a well-known fact that along the Arizona-Utah border, there are various polygamous communities flourishing and the authorities turn a blind eye because their family trees also contain many polygamous members. Private detective Lena Jones, based in Scottsdale, is hired by thirteen year old Rebecca's mother to get her out of the polygamy compound of Purity. The girl's non-custodial parent kidnapped her with the intention of marrying her off to the Prophet Solomon Royal in exchange for receiving two sixteen-year old wives.
Lena is able to get Rebecca out safely but not before they both see that Solomon was murdered by a gunshot. A few days later Rebecca's mother is arrested for the crime because she can be placed near the scene just before the murder, yelling at the Prophet. Lena, with the help of an inside sympathizer, infiltrates the compound to discover who the real murderer is, a difficult job because many people had various reasons to want Solomon dead.
After reading DESERT WIVES, reader will come away horrified that women in the twenty-first century in America can be treated like cattle and have no recourse but to endure their suffering. Betty Webb tells a compelling story and raises a social issue that most people don't even realize exists. This is one book that the audience will be unable to forget due to its subject matter.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner