Sunday, August 9, 2009

Latter-Day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott

Latter-Day Cipher

Latter-Day Cipher
by Latayne C. Scott

Trade Paperback: 377 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: Won a copy from the publisher in a twitter contest

Back Cover Description:
When rebellious Utah socialite Kirsten Young is found murdered in Provo Canyon with strange markings carved into her flesh and a note written in 19th century code, questions arise about the old laws of the Mormon Church. Journalist Selonnah Zee is assigned the story—which quickly takes on a life of its own. Even before the first murder is solved several more victims appear, each one more mysterious than the last.

Adding to a slew of other distractions, Selonnah’s cousin Roger has recently converted and is now a public spokesperson for the Mormon faith. But paradoxically, Roger’s wife, Eliza, is struggling to hold on to the Mormon beliefs of her childhood. If something is really from God, she wonders, why does it need to be constantly revised? And could the murderer be asking the same questions?

Latter-Day Cipher is a well-written, intriguing mystery/suspense novel. The world-building details about Utah, Mormon culture, and the character's jobs were all excellent and brought the world alive in my mind.

The author used a lot of figurative language. It was well-done, though I was occasionally confused about what was being described until the end of the description. I also found that the frequent use of figurative language (mainly used in Selonnah's point-of-view) gave a dreamy, distant feel to her character--which fit but also sometimes diluted the tension in her scenes. (Thus, I considered this a mystery novel until the suspense built in last third of the novel.)

The pacing was excellent, and the tension built when Selonnah began to suspect who the murder was. The varied, complex characters dealt with realistic struggles which I sympathized with. One character's fate at the end could have been made clearer (though my questions disappeared the more I thought about it), but the author does clearly indicate the future courses of the main characters.

Information about Mormon beliefs as well as bits about Hispanic Catholic culture, Protestant Christianity, and even Islam were woven skillfully into the story as information necessary to deciphering the clues left by the murderer. Events were seen through the eyes of an atheist, Selonnah, and several Mormon characters. The Mormon side of things was handled in a sympathetic manner. The novel was never preachy; the characters were just living out their beliefs. I think most non-Christians would enjoy this novel.

I don't recall any bad language, and there was no sex. The murder scene was graphic (how the body was laid out and what done to it), but I didn't really find it gory. Overall, I'd highly recommend this "good, clean read" to anyone interested in learning more about Mormon beliefs or who enjoys an interesting mystery.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
There on the damp pine needles, Kirsten Young lay on her back, a serene Ophelia in her dusky pond of blood. The dark irises of her bloodshot eyes stared unseeing into the branches above her. The sun had burst through the clouds after the sudden downpour and now blazed above the canopy of conifers and aspens in Provo Canyon. Deep in its recesses, the light filtered down in vertical sheets of champagne dust that played across the body.

Her skin, once the faintest of olive, now was pale as churned cream, mottled in the dark pooling of what everyone called her hot Italian blood. An angry oval bruise, dark as a plum, marked the side of her forehead.

The silt in her throat cut deep. Her left arm lay loosely at her side, still bearing at the wrist the friction marks from the plastic rope that had bound her. Her right arm crossed her chest, with the elbow supported by a rock underneath the triceps so the arm stayed in place. Her fingers curled slightly around her own shoulder, as if she gave herself a final hug in death. The tip of her thumb touched, delicately, the edge of the open wound under her left ear.

The scene on the forest floor was meant to set things aright.


Latayne C Scott said...

Wow! What a wonderful review. I appreciate your thoughtful reading and response.

I'm outlining a sequel. Pray for the publisher's positive response!


Genre Reviewer said...

I'm never sure how authors will take my reviews, so I always give a sigh of relief when authors love them and/or thank me for them. :) And thank you for writing the novel! I know writing is hard work, and I appreciate the time that goes into producing the books I read.

I will be praying as you requested.