Imagine that a pair of fresh-faced young women show up at your door with a message of hope just as you’re trying to cope with the recent death of your baby. And they offer an idyllic community — a perfect Zion that seems too good to be true. And it is.
It sounds like Mormonism, but it isn’t. Lawrence Pratt’s Dark Deception is strongly informed by Mormonism, but the church in the story is “The American Church of the New Christ.”
This fictional religion is believable and well fleshed-out — and quite similar to Mormonism, but far from identical. And, considering how the discussion of literary portraits of Mormonism gets mired in elaborate debates over accuracy, I think it was a wise choice on the author’s part. Instead of trying to say “Here’s what Mormonism is like,” he says (in essence) “Here’s a story that could take place in a religion that has some of the characteristics of Mormonism,” and consequently has more room for imagination. In particular, he has the leeway to make it an exciting thriller about the dangers of a community where everyone owes unquestioning allegiance to a hierarchy with ultimate power in the hands of a few top leaders.
Even though the church is fictional, the characters are very familiar: the closet non-believer attending church college, racing to finish her degree before getting expelled on “morals” charges; the couple of converts who become increasingly disillusioned as the church’s marketing face gives way to its real face; the liberals who cherish their childhood faith, believing their church can and should be changed from within; the church “royalty” who answer to a different set of rules than the rank-and-file; and many, many others. One of the joys of this book is the variety of lifelike characters that those of us who know Mormonism can relate to. Each character has a story (they intertwine in a way that’s not confusing), and they’re all interesting. The church’s blueprint for life is supposed to fit everyone, but it doesn’t, and (as you probably know) it fails to fit different people in different ways.
The Dark Deception is a thoroughly exciting and enjoyable read — I highly recommend putting it on your Summer reading list!!