Mystery Authors You May Have Missed
Betty Webb has had an adventurous life and pursued many paths, from farm work and folk singing to commercial art. But primarily she was a journalist before turning to writing full-time. Journalism, she says, taught her how to research hidden crimes, and fiction allows her to write from the heart. She hails from Alabama but since 1982 has lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, where her Lena Jones novels are set. Her volunteer work at the Phoenix Zoo provides inspiration for the Gunn Zoo mysteries.
What she writes: Webb’s two mystery series are the Lena Jones and Gunn Zoo novels. Lena Jones is a private investigator scarred by a troubled past and a determined defender of the defenseless, particularly women and children. Her cases are based on true crimes involving human rights abuses. Publishers Weekly called these novels "mysteries with a social conscience." In fact, Webb’s book Desert Wives, which brought to light the sexual abuse of girls at Warren Jeffs’ FDLS (Mormon Fundamentalist) compound, led to Jeffs’ arrest. The New York Times wrote, "If Betty Webb had gone undercover and written Desert Wives as a piece of investigative journalism, she'd probably be up for a Pulitzer." The Lena Jones series gives a full picture of Arizona, including Indian legend and urban sprawl, the poor and the exceedingly wealthy. This series has been compared to Sue Grafton’s alphabet series and Steven F. Havill’s Posadas County mysteries.
By contrast, the Gunn Zoo novels are an entertaining "cozy" series. Quirky zookeeper Teddy Bentley lives on a leaky houseboat along California’s central coast. Her high society mother disapproves of her unconventional lifestyle, as do most of the residents of Gunn Landing Harbor. Her father is on the run from the feds for embezzlement. Zoo life and murder come together in this comical sleuthing series that may appeal to fans of Donna Andrews' Meg Langslow mysteries.
|List of works
|Lena Jones series|
|Desert Noir (2001)||Desert Cut (2008)|
|Desert Wives (2002)||Desert Lost (2009)|
|Desert Shadows (2004)||Desert Wind (2012)|
|Desert Run (2006)|
|Gunn Zoo series|
|The Anteater of Death (2008)|
|The Koala of Death (2010)|
|The Llama of Death (2013)|
|What the critics say
|Lena Jones series|
|"Betty Webb is a tremendous writer… Ms. Webb has not only entertained with rousing good mystery stories and terrific characters, but educated by taking on the homeless, the dying, and polygamy." - Roundup Magazine|
|Regarding Desert Run: "Webb combines evocative description of place with fine historical research in a plot packed with twists." - Publishers Weekly|
|Regarding Desert Cut: "he longtime journalist manages to fuel her plot from the starkest of news stories without compromising the fast-paced action. Though some may want to skim the more graphic passages, the intrepid will be rewarded with a propulsive, thought-provoking read." - Publishers Weekly|
|Regarding Desert Lost: "Webb’s writing is superb, and her portrayal of the Scottsdale, AZ, area is compelling. Webb lays out the detail of polygamy and cult life in this fast-paced sixth series entry that will appeal to readers who enjoy gritty Southwestern mysteries. No one writes quite like she does." - Mystery Scene Magazine|
|Gunn Zoo series|
|Regarding The Anteater of Death: "As Teddy investigates, she turns up corruption and unseemly behavior among the upper crust of Gunn Landing. Webb’s new series combines a good puzzle with animal lore, a behind-the-scenes look at zoo operations, and plenty of humor." - Booklist|
|Regarding The Koala of Death: "The author of the edgy Lena Jones mysteries softens her touch in this second zoo mystery featuring an amateur sleuth with a wealthy background and a great deal of zoological knowledge and brain power. . . . Teddy's adventures will appeal to fans of animal-themed cozies." - Library Journal|
|"Webb warmly evokes the unconventional worlds of zoo and marina. Readers don't even have to be animal lovers to enjoy watching, say, a pushy television host get her comeuppance from a mischievous lemur." - Publishers Weekly|
|Regarding The Llama of Death: "Webb's third zoo mystery winningly melds a strong animal story with an engaging cozy amateur sleuth tale. Set at a relaxed pace with abundant zoo filler, the title never strays into too-cute territory, instead presenting the real deal." - Library Journal|
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