His Right Hand
by Mettie Ivie Harrison

Soho Crime, Penquin Random House, 2015. ISBN 978-1-616-95610-3.
Reviewed by Ann McCauley
Posted on 10/27/2015

Fiction: Mystery

A mysterious murder is not what one expects in the tight-knit Mormon community of Draper, Utah. Linda Wallheim is married to the ward's bishop, and discovers all is not as it appears as she struggles to honor her role as a submissive wife.

The carefully staged murder of the Bishop's right hand man on church property sets the plot in action. Carl Ashby had been a devout Mormon and a pillar of the local Mormon community. The tight-lipped members of the local church are wary of the official police inquiry. Linda realizes if the police are going solve the case, they will need an ally on the inside. She unofficially investigates the truth beneath layer after layer of deception, within their congregation.

The Mormon hierarchy is turned upside down when the autopsy report reveals that Carl Ashby was born a biological female. The Mormon Church considers gender a part of a person's soul, and some Mormons regard transgenderism as one of the worst possible transgressions. The church leaders reluctantly decide not to reveal to the public, his family or the congregation that Carl was born Carla. Multiple plot twists keep peeling back layers of the story, gradually revealing new truths.

This baffling additional information make the bishop and his wife realize how little they knew about Carl Ashby, and perhaps any of their congregants. During the grueling police investigation, almost everyone is suspected at one time or another: Carl's emotionally unstable wife, Emma; his adopted teenage son, William; his old college friend, Grant; various friends in the church, even the Bishop's wife. Linda tries to sort out the drama and determine the source of these seeds of doubt.

During the crisis the Wallheim's youngest son reveals to his parents that he is gay. The Bishop struggles to accept this news. Linda develops more empathy as her investigation places her in situations that this mother of five adult sons never anticipated.

The importance of this book is the in-depth information it provides the reader of the inner workings of the Mormon Church. The relationships between the well-developed characters thread believably through the book. Just when I thought I'd figured out the plot, a new curve is thrown and the novel ends with an unforgettable bang.

Mettie Ivie Harrison is the author of numerous books for young adults. She holds a Ph.D. in German literature from Princeton University and is a nationally ranked triathlete. She is author of the critically acclaimed The Bishop's Wife. She is a member of the Mormon Church and her two adult novels deal with intrigue within the Church of Latter-Day Saints. She and her husband have five children. Visit her website.

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