4 out of 4 stars
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Roger Blomquist Ph.D.’s 4 Shots: Murder in Mormondom is The Amazing True Story of Mary Stevens’ 1908 Murder. This book is the fictionalized account of a murder that rocked rural Utah in the early 1900’s. It started as a research project that became a journal article and a script, which together formed the foundation of the fictional account. The facts in the story are real, but the dialogue and some contextual situations are created from what is known in order to share the story in a way that we can all understand.
This murder mystery takes place in the small town of Orderville, Utah. Orderville’s name stems from the town being created as a way to honor the Mormon United Order by living fully in the Order as a town. Mary Stevens is living with her brother’s family as she finishes up high school. She has settled in with her brother, Joseph, and his wife, Frances, helping with the kids when she can. Mary is a loner who does not quite fit into her new town. Few include her, although she shares with Frances that there might be a boy that is interested in her. One evening, she does not return home; soon her body is found brutally murdered. This is where the story really begins. Orderville is shocked; this kind of thing just doesn't happen here. Who could have done it? Will the truth ever come out? Will things ever be the same in Orderville?
Blomquist tells the story using dialogue between the characters, with other information guiding the story outside of the conversations. Explanations are given regarding the cultural context of certain situations. For example, how high school exams are given is explained, as it different than anything one might experience today. That may seem like something mundane, but the way it is explained is rather interesting. Vivid details are given to help the reader feel as if they are alongside the characters in the setting, a part of the story. The pace is steady, although at critical moments it slows down to give the reader more details.
Blomquist had access to all of the legal documents and newspaper articles involving the real-life crime, which helps to show the story from different views. We see how so many people reacted: locals, people in the legal profession (i.e. jailors, various sheriffs, judges), family members, etc. I loved how I could almost “hear” people sharing their thoughts. Readers will think they know who “did” it and “why” but will then be left wondering if they missed something. Watching how investigations are handled during this time period is fascinating. The investigators of the time knew what they were doing, but sometimes they missed things. Once we know who the killer is, we realize that there is a new story to be told. There continues to be “more to the story” throughout.
I rate 4 Shots: Murder in Mormondom 4 out of 4 stars. There were no noticeable grammar or spelling errors. Once one starts reading, it is a difficult story to put down, as you are almost immediately immersed into 1908 in Orderville. I was captivated. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. Readers who enjoy criminal mysteries, as well as true stories, will appreciate and enjoy this story. Historical fiction fans may as well, but it is not your typical historical fiction in that the story itself, not just the time period, is based on facts.
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