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Monday, 8 February 2016

'His Right Hand' by Mette Ivie Harrison

Published by Mette Ivie Harrison,
3 December 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-61695-610-3

A tight-knit Mormon community is thrown into confusion when their ward’s second counsellor – the bishop’s right-hand-man – is found murdered in their church. Worse, the autopsy reveals that devout family man Carl was actually a woman ...

The book is narrated by Linda Wallheim, the wife of the bishop, and so a woman at the heart of the Mormon community. Linda lived outside the church before returning to it,  which gives her a sharper viewpoint, and at the moment she also has problems of her own, with her youngest child leaving for college: when her role for so long has been as home-maker, who will she be, with nobody to mother? Linda was a plausible and interesting character, and a good guide to the Mormon world, which was displayed mostly in a positive light (the author is herself a member). We were shown the closeness and structured nature of the community – for example, in the relay of help that instantly rallies to Carl’s stricken widow – as well as its hierarchy’s initially negative reaction to Carl’s transgender life. I did feel that at times the many explanations of Mormon life slowed the plot down (although I also found them really interesting), but the storyline was well worked-out, with several good twists, a tense finale, and clear, well-clued motivation for the surprise perp.

A traditional who-dunnit in an unusual setting. This is the second in a series, and does contain references to the first, so you might like to start with The Bishop’s Wife.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

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.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.





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