BookBrowse Reviews A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt

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A Killing in Zion

An Art Oveson Mystery

by Andrew Hunt

A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt X
A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt
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  • Published:
    Sep 2015, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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A mysterious sect in the heart of Utah anchors this immensely readable police procedural.

Some authors excel at crafting compelling historical fiction, others at building, brick-by-brick, gripping mystery/police procedural plots. Andrew Hunt is crackerjack at both. What's more, in an era of fatally flawed protagonist detectives Hunt gives us a man who is as wholesome as – but no less nuanced than – mother's homemade apple pie.

Maybe it's because in 1930s Salt Lake City, Utah there was such a thing as a healthy work-life balance, but Mormon lawman Art Oveson is genuinely dedicated to his family and his community. Sure, since being promoted to head the sheriff's Anti-Polygamy Squad, he is spending longer hours trailing the leader of a notorious Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) sect in hopes of catching him with two or more of the man's several wives. But Art's heart is thoroughly invested in his wife Clara, their two children and his hometown. Here lies True North on his moral compass, his raison d'être.

Salt Lake City, with streets so wide that back in pioneer times a team of four oxen pulling a covered wagon could make a U-turn with room to spare. Salt Lake City, home to ice cream parlors, movie palaces, and the most majestic state capitol building in the country, at the top of a hill overlooking the valley. Salt Lake City, where trolley bells rang like the heartbeat of a vibrant commercial center that a mere hundred years ago was uninhabited scrub…it [was] part of me, and I part of it.

It's only been a little more than a generation since leaders of the Mormon Church forsook polygamy so that Utah could become a part of the United States, and Art is convinced it was the right move. Plural marriage is flat out illegal and the very notion that this so-called FLDS "prophet" LeGrand Johnston is flagrantly breaking the law not only of the land but of the Mormon Church just gets under Art's skin: "They're deviants. They make a mockery of all the things I hold sacred. Marriage. Family. Religion. They rule by fear. Nobody in those families dares to step out of line."

So Art is determined to bring every one of these outliers to justice. Before he gets that chance, however, somebody murders the sect leader and his driver. Art is first on the scene and quickly discovers a young girl – not more than fourteen – cowering in a closet. She seems struck mute by the horror she has apparently just witnessed and is no help in identifying the killer/s. Who is this child and why doesn't/can't she speak or communicate in any way? The mystery has just doubled.

Then, like a guru dropping charms on a path to enlightenment Hunt reveals each new facet of the corrupt sect at a deliberate, steady pace; the appalling greed, fraud, murder, even pedophilia, one bit at a time. Before long you're so engrossed you can't stop reading any more than Art Oveson can stop pushing the limits of his authority to save the girl, solve the murders and rain down justice on the sordid religious sect.

Reading the final satisfying page was tinged with mild disappointment because I would no longer be able to hear those trolley bells. I guess I will just have to wait for Art Oveson's next assignment.

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review is from the October 7, 2015 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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