Sunday, August 05, 2018

Blessed Be the Wicked by D.A. Bartley

D.A. Bartley's Blessed Be the Wicked may be a debut mystery, but she brings a knowledge of Mormon history and traditions to this intriguing story. The background, as well as the well-developed character of Abish Taylor, combine for a fascinating debut.

Abish Taylor is from a respected Mormon family. Her father is a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. Yet, she had her reasons for leaving the Church. She moved to New York City, became a police detective, and had a loving, successful marriage. But, her husband's death devastated her, and she moved back to Utah, hoping to reconnect with her family and  nature. Now, she's the only detective on Pleasant View's police force. And, she's viewed with suspicion by all the Mormon men on the force, including her boss, Chief Henderson.

All the insiders keep secrets from Abbie, even at the scene of Steven Smith's death. The men don't really want to investigate when Smith is found dressed in his Temple clothes with his throat slashed. Henderson would like to believe it's suicide because the ritual appearance is reminiscent of blood atonement traditions in the history of the Mormon Church. Despite the opposition from her boss, Abbie and her young partner, Jim Clarke, find multiple reasons someone might have wanted Smith death. They investigate Smith's financial problems, his numerous trips out of the country, and his surprising relations with a young woman. When there's another death, Henderson pressures the two to come to a quick resolution so as not to embarrass the Church. And, Abbie faces additional pressure when her own father asks her not to push the investigation.

Abish Taylor is a believable, authentic character in an environment that readers will find fascinating because many of us lack knowledge of the history and traditions of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. She's in a awkward position, the daughter of a respected man, yet she left the Church. She's considered an outsider, but she must investigate the death of an insider who had a prominent role in the local Church. Abbie has to deal with her rocky relationship with her father, and the lack of understanding from most of her family. She blames herself when the second death occurs. And, she shares her self-awareness. "She clocked in and clocked out...Mostly, though, Abbie could come in, do her work, and leave without having to spend any emotional energy. She'd come back to Utah to escape the memories that ambushed her everywhere in New York. She'd come back to spent time outside. She'd come back to figure out how to be part of her family again. She hadn't come back to face real cases and real work."

In Blessed Be the Wicked, Abish Taylor has to "face real cases and real work". She has to deal with a male hierarchy, one that keeps secrets, and protects its power and traditions. It's an awkward situation for any police detective. It's a wonderful situation for a reader.

D.A. Bartley's website is

Blessed Be the Wicked by D.A. Bartley. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683317203 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.


Kay said...

Oh, I do like the sound of this one. Reminds me a bit of the Kate Burkholder books, but with the Amish instead of the Mormons. Crooked Lane is certainly publishing some great mysteries these days. I'll watch for this one.

Lesa said...

You're right, Kay. Crooked Lane has made some great discoveries, and picked up some good series.

Netteanne said...

Sounds like a winner. I just put it on hold.

You make my hold list and my TBR pile too large - with wonderful sounding books

Lesa said...

I'll take the blame for that, Netteanne. There are times I don't mind being responsible.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Yes, it does sound a lot like a Kate Burkholder deal in a different setting. Not that there is anything at all wrong with that. :)

Can't blame you for adding this one to my library hold list just yet, Lesa, and the local folks do not have it listed yet. Sigh. How dare they defy me!

(also have learned that chanting "Open, Open, Open" as the closed door just before the libary opens is frowned upon by two out of five staff members. 1 laughed so hard she had to go off to the bathroom. VICTORY IS MINE!!!!!!!!)

Lesa said...

Yes, Kevin! I wouldn't open it early, but I would have laughed with you.

Grandma Cootie said...

Thanks for the review for this one. You have made it sound fascinating so on the TBR it goes.

Lesa said...

Great! I'm glad it landed on the TBR pile, Grandma Cootie!