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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
False Prophet is a police procedural set in San Francisco and the Mormon community in Abbottsville, California, and written by Donna Banta. Detective Lieutenant Matt Ryan is called to investigate the bludgeoning death of an elderly man. When he turns the body over, he's somewhat disconcerted to find a bloodied Book of Mormon clasped in the dead man's hands. Ryan had recently concluded an unsuccessful investigation into the shooting death of a Mormon bishop and had been frustrated by the community's unity in shielding the young women he suspected of the crime. This time, the likely suspect is the new bishop, Paul Zimmerman, whose heavily pregnant wife, Carrie, had some tense moments with Ryan during that prior investigation. Now that her husband's being held for this killing, Carrie finds that Ryan is her best hope for clearing her husband's name.
I found Donna Banta's mystery novel, False Prophet to be a thoroughly entertaining police procedural. It's set in the Bay Area during the lead-up to the passing of Proposition 8, and the author, a former Mormon, gives the reader an insider's view of life in the Mormon community. There's a scene where Ryan infiltrates the Oakland Temple as part of his investigation, which is an inspired blend of adventure and high comedy. The mixed emotions Carrie feels about being a Mormon, generally, and supporting Prop 8, specifically, helped this reader understand to some degree how rank-and-file Mormons are compelled to follow their church leaders' strictures under threat of being ostracized. I also loved the setting. If you've ever been to San Francisco, Banta's descriptions of the Wharf, the Marina District and the Golden Gate will make you seriously consider planning another trip there. Best of all, False Prophet is a solid and well-plotted mystery with engaging characters and an unpredictable ending.