Death in the Covenant is the new Abish Taylor mystery written by author D.A. Bartley. This story revolves around religious beliefs, death in the community and how the protagonist faces this sensitive investigation.
Here is an interview with the author where she also answers how she carefully handles the story around religious beliefs and it is definitely a great one.
1. What are some of the challenges presented by writing a series as opposed to a standalone novel?
I love writing a series because it lets me leave the story messy. I’m a fan of the classic murder mystery: you start off with a body (or bodies) and end up discovering the killer.
With a series, you have to solve that murder puzzle, but you can leave some things unresolved. Relationships evolve, romance develops, and rivalries wax and wane. I like that little muddle and disorder.
2. When you plot out your books, do you already know all of the twists and turns and the whodunit?
Not even remotely! The week I finished the first draft of Death in the Covenant, I knew I was at the end of the story, and I knew there were only a few people who could’ve done it, but until I sat down to write, I wasn’t sure which of those people would be ultimately responsible. Once I started writing, and the characters started talking and doing things, it became clear what had to happen.
3. You handle issues dealing with faith very sensitively. How do you tread that line?
I know what it’s like to live in a world dominated by religion and what it’s like to live in a world that’s distinctly a-religious. Growing up, I spent three hours every Sunday at church. On top of that, I served as president of the various young women’s organizations, played church volleyball and basketball, sang in the choir, and performed in theatrical/musical shows. Church was a big part of my everyday life.
Even though I’m not a member now, I still go to church with my dad when I’m in Utah. Having said that, I believe in openness and doubt. I believe it’s critical to question your belief system and to engage in open and respectful conversation. If we don’t know our past–and own up to it–it’s difficult to move forward into a better and more compassionate world.
4. How accurate is the history and doctrine brought up in the book?
Everything factual–history, scripture, doctrine–is accurate, or at least as accurate as possible. Everything else is completely made up. That’s really the fun part of writing Mormon murder mysteries; I get to play around with some very macabre and strange bits of LDS history and doctrine.
In Blessed Be the Wicked, it’s blood atonement; in Death in the Covenant, it’s polygamy and the recent uptick in young men leaving the Church. For number three, the jumping-off point is the Book of Mormon founding story. There’s a long list of curious and dark aspects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that make for delightful murder motifs.
5. How familiar with the Mormon church do you need to be to read this series?
Not at all familiar. The underlying themes–family, personal beliefs, our relationships with our communities and our history–are universal. Granted, Mormonism has its quirks.
It’s sometimes challenging to write about the unique aspects of LDS culture without being either boring, because I give too much information, or baffling, because I provide too little.
Undoubtedly, I’ve made mistakes along the way. Overall, though, I’m thrilled with the feedback: my non-Mormon friends loved learning about the truly odd history of the Church, and my Mormon friends loved reading a novel that accurately reflects living in Utah without being either saccharine or bitter.