I found this second mystery by Mette Ivie Harrison almost as enthralling as the first, in spite of the fact that I guessed the solution before the end. What sets this series apart is its setting in a modern mainstream Mormon community, a group I don’t know a lot about, and the open, intimate tone of the story. This time the characters are struggling with ripped from the headlines issues of sexual identity and acceptance of difference.
Main character Linda Wallheim, the wife of a bishop, is a devout believer but has some troubling questions about her church’s policies and power structure. Her marriage is generally good, but not without challenges, and she’s at loose ends because her youngest son has all but moved out of the house. When her husband’s rigidly traditional colleague is murdered Linda becomes deeply involved in helping the victim’s distraught, almost unhinged widow and two teenage children. This puts her in a position to notice disturbing patterns which could help solve the crime, drawing Linda further into dangerous circumstances, but church higher-ups insist that some aspects of the situation be kept from the public, hampering the police investigation.
The author is a Mormon herself and I greatly enjoyed having a glimpse into that community. It’s a moving, family-focused story and the non-murder themes have some basis in reality–Harrison explains in the afterword that the idea for the book came from an incident she witnessed firsthand.