An engaging though didactic tale of faith gone wrong.

The Blood Doctrine

The Poores, a father-son writing team, craft a novel that revolves around a murder investigation, though it’s more so an extensively researched exploration of religion and hate crimes.

One September morning in Utah, James gets the latest in a string of visits from Elder Lee and Elder Jenkins, a pair of Mormon missionaries. James’ revelation that he’s gay gets the missionaries to leave him alone. Lee says he thinks the world would be better off without homosexuals, and Jenkins calmly tries to rebuke him, reminding Lee, “They are still children of God and the Lord does love them.” The next morning, James’ partner finds him on the couch, his throat slashed. Detective Klingensmith is put on the case, and he can’t get the question out of his mind: “Why would a missionary commit murder?” To answer this question, he crisscrosses Utah and delves into some of the more obscure doctrines of the Church of Latter-day Saints, which the Poores back up with meticulous research and citations. In their preface, the authors write, “No religion wants the most outrageous atrocity in American history [the Mountain Meadows massacre, in which a Mormon militia slaughtered over 100 emigrants] shared with their adolescent members, especially the LDS church,” so readers might not expect a nuanced, fair portrait of Mormonism. Thankfully, though, most of the religion’s representatives here aren’t people who would wantonly kill gays. Still, it’s a bit hard to believe that a missionary would commit a heinous crime purely as a result of the intellectual motivations of his church, especially since Lee isn’t a terribly complex villain. Instead, the book—despite its solid, simple writing and quick pace, perfect for a crime novel—focuses too much on digging through Mormon history and theology. Though interesting, it falls short when readers might be looking for more realistic characters and less didacticism. Nevertheless, overall, it’s a captivating, thought-provoking read, willing to deal with tough questions about the roots of evil.

An engaging though didactic tale of faith gone wrong. 

Pub Date: March 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0985842109

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Patterson Crossroads

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2013

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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