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Snow, "Zion's Web" (reviewed by Steven Kerry Brown) Options · View
Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 1:54:37 AM

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Title: Zion’s Web
Author: Michael Snow
Publisher: The Larry Czerwonka Co.
Genre: PI Mystery
Year Published: 2013
Number of pages: 376
Binding: Paperback (also available on Kindle)
ISBN10: 0615772099
ISBN13: 780615772097
Price: $16.99 Paperback, $7.99 Kindle

Author's Website: MichaelSnowAuthor.com

Reviewed by Steven Kerry Brown for the Association for Mormon Letters

Zachariah Burton is a former FBI agent, recovering alcoholic, and a working private investigator. I felt particularly qualified to review this book, as I am two of those three: former FBI and working private investigator. In addition I dated a recovering alcoholic for several years and know a great deal about that disease. Also Zach is a boater/sailor and his boat plays a part in this story. I also have held a hundred ton US Coast Guard captain’s license, captaining charters on my 60 foot ketch in the Bahamas.

The book begins with Brenda, an escapee from a polygamist cult. The man who is supposed to help her escape has given her Zach’s business card “just in case” and is then murdered by two enforcers from the cult. Zach, the recovering alcoholic, just happens to be sitting in a bar across the street. Generally not the best place for recovering alcoholics to be. A common saying among alcoholics is “if you don’t want to slip, don’t go into slippery places.”

Brenda walks across the street, runs coincidently into Zach and the story is off and running.

Zach is not a Mormon but his deceased wife Dana was a practicing Mormon. Dana’s death forced Zach into drinking, which led to his premature departure from the FBI. I think that the “former law enforcement, former alcoholic, now PI” routine is a bit of a cliché. But in spite of that, this book has a lot to recommend it.

Brenda Cooper was married to one of the general authorities in the polygamist compound named Zion's Mount. ZM for short. Young men escape and normally there is no retaliation because the older men then have less competition for all of the young women. Sometimes women escape without being pursued. But an example had to be made of Brenda. Being married to a high-ranking authority, her escape just couldn't be tolerated.

Brenda is pursued relentlessly by the enforcers from ZM. She left her children at the cult with intentions to retrieve them. Her young daughter is soon scheduled to be married to one of the older unscrupulous bad guys. Brenda and Zach’s mission is to retrieve her children from the cult.

Her brother Wayne, who escaped the year before from the cult has been hiding in Mexico and has the mining rights to a very rich and heretofore hidden gold mine in southern Nevada. The corporation behind the cult wants that gold mine and is willing to kill to get it. The story follows Zach and Brenda from southern California to Mexico to Nevada, where Zach and Wayne are nearly killed, and back to Southern California.

Probably the best part of the book is when Zach and Wayne, and one of Zach’s friends, another former FBI agent, travel to the hidden gold mine to get some gold because Zach wants payment and they need to put together a “crew” to rescue Brenda’s children which will cost money. It is entertaining, exciting, and intense.

The conspiracy to kill Brenda and her brother and steal the rights to the gold mine involves the polygamist cult, an unscrupulous corporation, and a handful of corrupted FBI agents. There is good historical detail on the early beginnings of polygamist cults, although the reader is never actually taken inside this fictional cult. Likewise I think the author fails in his depiction of alcoholism, FBI jargon and PI practices. Zach never craves a drink throughout the book. There is no description of his previous blackouts or “dry drunks” common to alcoholics and recovering alcoholics. His former FBI agents continue to call the FBI a “department” which is not how FBI agents speak of the bureau. Police yes, but not FBI. But those are minor issues compared to the rest of the story.

The book "Zion’s Web" is a print on demand book and has surprisingly few typos or grammatical errors. I only noted a couple. The author is a bit verbose at times, repeating back-story that really isn’t needed at all. The book could be a good thirty pages shorter.

Still, the story is intriguing and it’s a good adventure. The most fleshed out character is not Zach, but Matt Benson, a homicide detective. It was not quite clear to me with which department Matt is employed, one of the LA jurisdictions, but he is a current Mormon Bishop and was Dana’s brother, Zach’s now former brother-in-law. Matt is well characterized and his range of emotions is what you might expect, balancing a homicide career and Mormon Bishop duties. I liked Matt a lot.

I recommend this book as a good mixture of PI fiction, crime, polygamy, and Mormonism. I’m particularly glad it does not take place in Utah. More Mormon crime fiction is needed in places other than Utah.
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