by Mette Ivie Harrison
First sentence: “Mormon bishop’s wife isn’t an official calling.”
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Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Content: There’s a few instances of mild swearing, but it is a murder mystery, and there are some pretty adult situations at the end of the book. It’s in the mystery section of the bookstore.
When this one came into the store, I knew I needed to read it. First, because I have enjoyed Harrison’s fantasies in the past, but mostly because, as the bookstore’s resident Mormon, I was interested in seeing what this one was about.
It’s published by Soho Crime, a division of Penguin/Random House, and it’s being touted as a mystery. Which, on one level, it is.
Our main character is Linda Wallheim, the wife of a bishop of a small Draper, Utah, ward. Her children are mostly grown and gone; her last boy is a senior in high school. She still hasn’t gone back to work, and so one of the tasks her husband gives her is to go visit people he feels need extra help and care. That’s how Linda gets mixed up in not one, but two tricky situations in the ward. One is the disappearance of a woman who left behind a husband and a 5-year-old girl. This is the really messy one, that doesn’t end well at all. The other is support to a woman whose husband is dying, and whose first wife died in what turns out to be a long-hidde murder. Linda is over her head, true, but she perseveres, and manages to solve both.
That’s the simple explanation. But, as mysteries go, this one is pretty pedestrian. I went through a couple of suspects before I settled in on who eventually committed the murder. And so, at the end, I wasn’t surprised, but that’s okay. See, for me, this book was a lot less about the murder and a lot more about Harrison’s portrayal of Mormon women.
Perhaps it’s because I’m the right age, the right target audience, the right sensibilities, but I was thoroughly drawn in by Harrison’s portrait of all the varying opinions, ideas, thoughts, and beliefs of members of the church. She shows that there are good people who are doing good things there are crazy people doing crazy things, there are dangerous people doing evil things. There are people who believe strongly, there are people who are questioning but still want to believe, there are people who don’t believe any more. Harrison also does a fantastic job of putting our religion (she’s LDS too, obviously) out there in a way that’s accessible to people who aren’t familiar with our faith. She’s most interested in the roles women play in the church, and in each other’s lives, and that’s what spoke the most to me.
I’m not quite sure who else would enjoy the book, though,. I tweeted Harrison when I finished, and she admitted she’s been getting a lot of flack for the book, which (unfortunately) doesn’t surprise me. But, I do hope this book finds readers and creates discussion.
Because it’s worth thinking about.