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Sunday 10 May 2015

'The Bishop's Wife' by Mette Ivie Harrison

Published by Soho Crime,
31 December 2014.
ISBN 978-1-61695-476-5

This is an unusual book.  Murder mysteries do not usually feature the Church of the Latter Day Saints in Utah.   The writer is, as we are told in her details on the cover, a member of the Church who lives in Utah with her family and has written books for young adults.  The intimate knowledge she has of the Church and life in Utah enriches the book.  

The protagonist is a Bishop's wife, Linda Walheim, who has a grown up family and spends her time in social work within the church associated with her husband's position.  She is a strong woman with some sorrows of her own who is highly sympathetic to the travails of other women and who is thinking about the direction her own life might take now.  She is troubled by the disappearance of a young mother and her fears that the woman has been murdered.  Her private investigations of this and of other problems lead her into a world where her convictions about people are turned around as in a kaleidoscope as she learns more and more.  The patriarchal nature of the Mormon church concerns Linda and the issue of domestic abuse becomes prominent.  The dangers represented by extreme views held by some men that women are whores and sinners have to be evaluated - are they merely cranks or do they mean that they are a serious threat particularly to women within their families?    The stories of different characters are cleverly merged and the denouements of them become more difficult to visualise.  However, Linda reaches successful, if sometimes unappealing, conclusions as she realises the truths of these stories.  
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer 
This is the first mystery from this author though she has written books for young adults.

Mette Ivie Harrison grew up in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse in central New Jersey in a family with eleven children, a dog, a pony, and lots of chickens. She moved to the more suburban Utah city of Provo at age ten, where her father taught Computer Science at Brigham Young University. Mette graduated from Brigham Young University with a Master's Degree in German Literature. She went on to earn a PhD from Princeton University in 1995 in Germanic Languages and Literatures with a dissertation on the female Bildungsroman of the 18th century. She faced considerable difficulty on the topic because of prejudice against a dissertation that focused completely on women writers in a department without a single female tenured faculty member. Beginning in 1994, Mette worked as an adjunct professor at BYU, but decided in 1997 to work on her fiction writing career. Two years later, in 1999, she sold her first young adult novel, The Monster in Me.  Mette has since published seven young adult novels, including Mira, Mirror and The Princess and The Hound.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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