Wednesday, August 7, 2019

ARC Review: Death in the Covenant by D. A. Bartley

Death in the Covenant
Author: D. A. Bartley
Series: An Abish Taylor Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (August 13, 2019)

Description: The growth of the Mormon Church has slowed. Young men are abandoning the Church, leaving their female counterparts unmarried and childless. Now, the Church is about to lose one more member…and it may be due to murder.

Detective Abish “Abbie” Taylor returned to the mountain town of Pleasant View, Utah, hoping for a quiet life. But that hope dissipates like a dream when she wakes to an unsettling phone call. Arriving at the scene of a fatal car accident, she discovers that the victim was one of the most beloved leaders of the Church―and an old family friend.

Abbie is skeptical when her father insists the death was not an accident, but in an attempt to patch up their relationship, she takes a few days off from her job as the sole detective in the police department, and heads to Colonia Ju├írez, a former LDS colony in Mexico. There, she uncovers a plan hearkening back to the Church’s history of polygamy. But Abbie knows too well that bringing secrets to light can be deadly. Is that why her father’s friend died?

Abbie realizes with a jolt that her investigation could cost her father his job and possibly get him excommunicated. Who is the murderous mastermind of this secret plot? Time is running out for Abbie to save her father’s position―and her own life―as dark forces close in, and the outlook for Pleasant View turns decidedly unpleasant.

My Thoughts: Abby Taylor has left the Mormon church that she was raised in after much soul-searching. Now, after some years away, she is back in Utah working as a police officer. When she is called to the site of an accident, she is disturbed to discover Heber Bentsen who is an old family friend and a higher up in the Church. She is even more distressed when she learns that Heber was murdered.

Abby immediately finds her investigation into his death hampered by her own boss at the police department and other leaders of the Church. They put pressure on Abby to declare the death an accident and end the investigation before the funeral. A talk with her father who was Heber's good friend points Abby in a new direction. Her father says that Heber was curious about the disappearance of a number of young women who were faithful members of the Church.

Abby's investigation leads her to Mexico where she learns that the long-outlawed practice of plural marriage might be being resurrected there. A recording of a meeting on the day of Heber's death confirms that leaders of the Church are floating the idea and that Heber was opposed.

This story is filled with looks inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with all their secretive practices. Abby's father is a church scholar and a devoted member of the Church. Threats to excommunicate him weigh heavily on Abby and spur her on to solve the murder not only of Heber but of a young rock climber who saw the "accident" and a young graduate student who is part of a plural marriage.

This was a fascinating look at a strange culture filled with members who believe with blind faith and don't let little things like truth and evidence sway them. I liked the story but wasn't really satisfied with the ending that was at best detente.

Favorite Quote:
"If Heber suspected plural marriage was already being practiced..."

"Abbie, I listened to Brittany Thompson. I saw her children and I saw her pregnant belly. I have no reason to suspect her of lying, but I haven't spoken to President Bragg. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation--"

"A perfectly reasonable explanation?" Her voice was rising, in volume and register. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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