About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt

(26. – 868.)  A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt – In the broiling summer of 1934 Detective Lieutenant Art Oveson is chosen to head the new Anti-Polygamy Squad of the Salt Lake City Police. Mayor Cummings has decided to take a stand against the barely private polygamists in his city. 

It will not be an easy investigation. While a breakaway sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Saints, espouses polygamy they are careful to publicly maintain only one wife. Secretly the leaders are sealed to numerous other women. 

Oveson, a devout Mormon, supports the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which disavowed polygamy in 1890 as one of the conditions of statehood for Utah.

Along with “most modern Mormons” Oveson scorns the polygamists:

Reasons for this powerful dislike were numerous. The simplest explanation, the pat one, was that polygs made a mockery out of marriage and family. Yet in my more reflective moments, I was willing to concede that my hatred for the men in my slide show was rooted in my inability to come to terms with the lives of my ancestors. Not so long ago, my great-grandparents on both sides engaged in plural marriage, practicing the same custom as the men I now detested.

The book caught me by surprise. I did not understand before reading the book that the current issues with plural marriages were already present in 1934.

The leader of the Fundamentalist Church in A Killing in Zion is LeGrand Johnston, “Uncle Grand” to his followers. Considered a prophet by the members of his Church he follows a daily routine visiting women who deny being his wives and tending to Church business. It is a good life at 79.

Oveson is spending his days and evenings following Uncle Grand hoping to see evidence that would support charges against the aging prophet.

One night after Uncle Grand has met with his apostles he returns to the Church containing his office. He is accompanied by his driver / bodyguard.

Oveson and another member of the squad, his friend, Roscoe Lund, are startled when they hear shots fired in the Church. They rush inside to find Uncle Grand and his bodyguard dead. They have been shot.

While searching the building the police find a terrified young teenage girl in a closet. She will not speak to them. Oveson, unsure of her role in the evening but unwilling to have her taken to the Utah State Industrial School, takes her home. He fails to notice she is wearing a silver wedding ring.

Oveson’s wife, Clara, pregnant with their third child, is unhappy that he has not consulted in her advance. When she finds out the alternative is the grim state reformatory she readily agrees the teenager can stay with them. No matter how hard they try the Oveson’s cannot get her to say or write anything.

With apostles and church members refusing to provide statements the investigation is barely progressing. Oveson is able to learn there are divisions with the Fundamentalist Church.

An ill-fated decision is made to arrest the 11 living apostles of the Fundamentalist Church and question them aggressively with the expectation they can get one or more to crack and provide the information needed to solve the murders.

The interrogations do not go well. In addition to their innate unwillingness to answer the police their lawyer, Granville Sondrup, counsels them to be silent.

The unjustified arrests produce a public outcry that predictably leads to political pressure from City Hall to blame allegedly headstrong police officers for the fiasco.

Oveson is an honourable man. There are not many in current crime fiction. He neither swears nor drinks alcohol nor consumes coffee nor abuses drugs. He is true to his Mormon faith and loves his family and greatly enjoys ice cream with his wife as a treat. He goes to work secure in the knowledge he has a happy family who will be glad to see him in the evening. I admire him.

His best friend on the police force Roscoe is irreligious, a hard drinker, swears constantly, has no family, engages in brief liasons and is deeply depressed. Oveson, seeing a loyal man who can be a good police officer, does not condemn Roscoe and works hard to keep the self-destructive Roscoe on the force.

As they work to solve the crime there is not a lot of mystery. What drew me along were the characters and learning about Mormon life and history. I did not realize how little I knew about Mormons until I read A Killing in Zion.

Hunt is convincing in his portrayal of life and murder in Salt Lake City of 1934. I would like to read more of Art Oveson.

A Killing in Zion is the 4th book I have read from the shortlist for the 2016 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian Crime Fiction Novel. (June 22, 2016)


  1. This sounds like an absolutely fascinating book, Bill, just in its exploration of the Mormon experience. I do like it when novels treat their subjects with respect, as it seems is the case here. The story itself sounds interesting, too. I'm glad you enjoyed it .

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Hunt definitely respects Mormon culture. I am not sure if I have read any other crime fiction in which the sleuth is Mormon.

  2. This would be a very interesting read, Bill, to learn more about polygamy among Mormons now and in the past. The topic is both interesting and disturbing.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Your description of interesting and disturbing is apt. I admit I am not comfortable with plural marriages.

  3. When we lived in Seattle, we went on a trip to Utah, and I thought (and still think) it was the most beautiful and extraordinary place I had ever seen. Of course the people we met there were lovely welcoming Americans - but close reading of the local papers made you see that there were some strange goings-on there. A tiny minority I'm sure, but it was uncomfortable. This sounds like an interesting look at the topic.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I was glad to get your perspective on Utah. It is a state I have not visited. I hope to get there some day.