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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Thursday, December 3, 2015


His Right Hand  (A Linda Wallheim Mystery #2) by Mette Ivie Harrison...

A Mormon enclave in Draper, Utah is the setting for murder unexpected. A crime committed that uncovers a shocking truth and that throws the Mormon hierarchy into disarray.  Carl Ashby, a respected member, has been killed and during the investigation, it is revealed that he had transgendered from female. Linda Wallheim, wife of the ward's bishop is determined to help uncover the truth of the murder as suspicion casts a festering pall  over the community.  
In the course of looking into the murder, the main character Linda, gives the reader a fascinating insight into Mormon mores. Many of which are dissected in terms of individual responsibility, interpretation and grace. Referenced is the churches adherence to strict lines of communication, order and within that a person's place according to gender and hierarchy. And here shockingly, a crime has exposed that those gender lines having been crossed. Many questions arise. How then should the church leaders respond ? How did Carl maintain his secret? How much should be revealed to the family and to the community? A problematic area in terms of the crime is that this is a closed community, used to being self supporting with no need of outsiders,  or outsider interference. This might be ok in terms of relief work and general community support but murder is a legal matter and as such falls to a different authority. So we are left with the picture that hindrance rather than help is given to the police in the course of the investigation. Those actions might mean the murderer is unwittingly hidden due to the protective intentions of the leadership. The hints of blockage by the church authority and President Frost's involvement with the police is puzzling to the reader and to Linda. The discussions via Linda about the LDS stance on transgender and gays is fascinating, as are other aspects of the Church's practices and history. The response by President Frost proclaiming that all ordinances would have to be nullified and redone is troubling for the leaders because of some quite far reaching ramifications. These insights drew me on--as some of the practices of Mormonism are revealed. Because of the carefully built background it was some time before the actual murder took hold of the writing. When I compare the plot construction with that of one of my favourite mystery writers and coincidentally, a LDS member, Anne Perry, I feel that the buildup of tension in His Right Hand is sporadic, and although I understand that explanations about the faith are important to some of the happenings, their complexity acted against the plot. Fortunately all came together rather dramatically in the last couple of chapters. 
Linda is a strong and likeable character, who seems to push the boundaries, and yet struggles to work within the confines of her community, at the same time accepting that those limitations are part and parcel of whet she has chosen to stay.

A NetGalley ARC

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