You can never be too careful with murderers, however much you like them.
When full-blooded Pima Jimmy Sisiwan doesn’t show up for work at Desert Investigations, Scottsdale private eye Lena Jones, who considers him her “almost-brother,” finds him locked in a jail cell in tiny Walapai Flats after he asked a little too vigorously why his brother Ted was being held as a material witness in the murder of Ike Donohue, a PR flack for local uranium mining interests. Did Ted set out to avenge the murder of his wife Kimama, an active agitator with V.U.M. (Victims of Uranium Mining)? Lena gets Jimmy released, but her snooping puts a target on her back. Then Roger Tosches, the richest man in the county, is killed before he can complete the purchase of a ranch. It’s possible that both men were killed by Gabe, the cook at the ranch, who has by now confessed to the Donohue murder. When that proves unlikely, Lena chats up the two widows, one grieving, one not, and follows Olivia, a Times reporter, to a meeting of cancer sufferers who’ve been dealing with medical calamities ever since the Nevada nuclear tests over 50 years ago. Despite assurances from the Atomic Energy Commission that the tests were harmless, half the cast and crew of the 1954 John Wayne film The Conqueror have passed away, and radioactive soil and water contamination have dispatched some family members going back three generations. One more will die before all the angles become clear to Lena and an apparition resembling the Duke himself tips his hat to her and rides off into the sunset.
A perfect example of the mystery-on-a-soapbox, in which the author’s moral outrage is more compelling than the fiction designed to convey it. And Lena (Desert Lost, 2009, etc.), with her bad-choice romances and appalling childhood abuse, is hard to like.