Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 145-150,000 words
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A “numbers guy” who works in the world of credit and finance, Joseph M. Rinaldo has always been an avid reader and loves how words can be used to create different worlds. He has two additional novels available, Hazardous Choices and A Spy at Home. For more, visit Rinaldo’s website.
“This modern-day novel is based on the actual massacre of innocent Americans by Mormon zealots in the Utah Territory. In present-day Nashville, Tennessee, Jeremiah grows up with a prejudice against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the murders in 1857 of his ancestors at Mountain Meadows. Until the 1995 Oklahoma City attack, this was the most deadly act of terrorism against US citizens.
Jeremiah’s hatred multiplies when his father, Luke, informs him that his mother suffered abuse at the hands of her Mormon husband in a previous marriage. Due to his father’s association with the Mormon Victim’s Action Committee, Jeremiah gets an opportunity to expose the current widespread and Church-accepted practice of abusing women. With his father’s encouragement and the knowledge of his mother’s horrific experience, Jeremiah accepts M-VAC’s offer to train and insert him into an LDS community in hopes of collecting evidence to prosecute the abusers.
Jeremiah’s objective broadens when he sees all the atrocities committed by Mormon zealots. Now he wants to expose the entire Church as a violent and dangerous fraud.”
I liked the overall, high-level premise of A Mormon Massacre. I’ll summarize that as someone in the present day who had ancestors murdered by a group of Mormons in the Mountain Meadows Massacre (which was a very real event). This character has a hatred of Mormons, passed down through the generations, that is strong enough to view the organization and its members as evil, and to be motivated enough that, given the chance, he would go to great lengths to uncover and expose that evil.
However, once we got into the details, I found I had big issues. Someone with little or no exposure to the Mormon Church might not have had these issues. I found that, rather than being drawn into the story and suspending disbelief, I kept spotting problems with terminology or something stated as a fact or belief of the Mormon Church that missed the mark by so much as to be unbelievable. I’ll get to some specifics later, but will first try to give a generic example that should be understandable to most people, to illustrate my concern.
Imagine a thriller, set in contemporary times, where a large, nationwide bank is being embezzled for millions of dollars. I, and I suspect most thriller readers, would have no problem believing that the embezzlement was being done by a small group of high-level managers conspiring with a few key people. Even if we had doubts that the scenario as presented could happen in real life, if there weren’t big holes, we’d be able suspend disbelief while reading.
Now imagine that the behavior of those who worked at the bank and weren’t part of the conspiracy is also changed. Terminology is wrong, maybe calling those who service customers coin tossers instead of tellers or calling the piece of paper used as a means of transferring funds a bonanza slip instead of a check. Imagine these coin tossers give customers exchanging bonanza slips for cash random bonuses or a bonanza slip for a different amount. Or if the customer prefers, they can use the self service line and help themselves to however much cash they want. You’d think you’d entered The Twilight Zone.
This is how I felt reading A Mormon Massacre. In order to get the reader to suspend disbelief when the story takes place in a milieu that is real, it is important to get the details as close to real as possible except for those things that need to be different for your story, and even those need to be somewhat plausible. The number of items that jumped out at me that failed to do this would be too long to list, but I’ll give you a small sample.
A set of two missionaries who work together (called “companions”) would never be a man and a woman unless they were an older couple who were married to each other. Missionary isn’t a semi-permanent position that is transferred from area to area, as depicted, but a temporary assignment, mostly spent in a single geographical area. While some older missionaries may serve more than one term, it virtually never happens with younger missionaries like those in this story. Members of “The Council of Twelve Apostles” (an actual part of the Mormon hierarchy) are referred to as apostles, not councilmen. While I’m not so naïve as to expect that every Mormon follows every one of their commandments or teachings, you would never have a large church related gathering serve coffee, as was done at least once in this book. Nor would you have a member of the church hierarchy drink alcohol in public, especially not in Utah, if for no other reason than the risk of being seen doing so by another church member. I could list many more items like this.
Many of my complaints would not be valid if what was being depicted was a fictional church. However, that would also make the overall premise invalid. For someone who has never known a Mormon and knows absolutely nothing about them, this story might hold up. For anyone with a smidgeon of knowledge, buying into this will be a struggle.
Adult language and situations.
A moderate number of proofing and copy-editing misses.
Rating: ** Two stars