NEW REVIEWS: Latter-day Cipher
From the surrealistically tranquil opening scene in which the reader scans the body of a killer’s first victim, to an explosive final chapter delivered with the rhythm of a quickened pulse, Latter Day Cipher is a masterwork of riveting story-craft and elegant prose. Latayne Scott is a one-time Mormon with a lingering affection for the people of the Mormon faith, and her compassion shows in fully-dimensioned characters caught in crises of faith and loyalty as questions are asked and secrets exposed. — Kathleen Popa, author of To Dance in the Desert and The Feast of Saint Bertie
Top Pick Review, Christian Retailing Magazine:
A series of murders has rocked Salt Lake City, the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), in the thriller Latter-Day Cipher. Whoever is responsible for the murders is trying to point each crime to doctrines of the Mormon church, posing each victim to represent a punishment for those leaving the church or going against its teachings.
Selonnah Zee is a reporter assigned to do a story on the history and architecture of the Mormon temples, but is drawn into investigative reporting when the murders begin.
While in the city, Selonnah stays with her cousin Roger, a network features reporter and devout Mormon, and his family. His role is to put the right “spin” on the evidence to draw attention away from the church, putting him in direct conflict with Selonnah.
Latter-Day Cipher involves the reader not only in a page-turning murder mystery, but also in the struggles of those who must face their own shaken beliefs. A former faithful Mormon, author Scott is sympathetic to those struggles, and attempts to look compassionately at the process of making the hard decision to change. Christian Retailing (“top pick” review, March 2009.)
Latter-Day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott
Review by Michael A. Arnzen, The Goreletter (June 2009)
It’s not often that I read religious-oriented fiction, and I’m going to bet
that most readers of The Goreletter haven’t even heard of this book. But
Latter-Day Cipher (Moody Publishers, 2009), the first suspense novel from
Latayne C. Scott, strikes me as a very bold step into some very challenging
and original waters: the shadowy history of the Mormon church. In Latter-Day
Cipher, a journalist is assigned to cover a series of bizarre (and I mean
bizarre!) and gory murders in Utah, involving strange symbolic carvings
discovered in the flesh of the victims and a 19th century document written
entirely in code with ties to the Latter-Day Saints. Along the way, the
Church of LDS tries to silence the publicity (sound familiar?) while a
madman seems to be following archaic LDS religious practices quite
literally. Scott uses fiction to explore what would happen if the early rite
of “blood atonement” was still carried out today, while also realistically
exploring the spiritual crises of her characters.
In the book’s afterword, Scott makes a case for the reality of “blood
atonement” rituals, but I felt a little skeptical of >some< of this, given
her own status (broadcast very clearly in the book) as a recent convert away
from a long-held following of Mormon principles. The book seems to be
constructing an argument against Mormonism in favor of Christianity as much
as it is trying to tell a story that illustrates it. While Scott isn’t to
blame, this undercurrent is why I usually don’t read books like these —
because the writer’s agenda or ideology seems so close to the surface of the
text that I have problems suspending disbelief. But this book manages to
transcend such matters by raising intriguing and unique questions. I have to
say that Latter-Day Cipher is such a compelling and scary story that it
stands on its own two feet as a proper psychological suspense novel: Scott’s
deft and successful storytelling abilities — and her zeal for telling an
original story while simultaneously investigating the historical realities
of the Church — on top of all the weirdness that is everywhere apparent in
the story — really won me over. I kept forgetting I was wearing my black
skeptic’s hat as I read it. So if you’re tired of the usual serial killer
fair, or if you want to see what Anne Rice really SHOULD be writing
post-conversion, then this is a book you’ll want to read. Take a look at the
neat book trailer and other information at the author’s website:
DaVinci Code, Move Over
: In Latter-Day Cipher, word smith and writer extraordinaire Latayne C. Scott dazzles the senses with her poetic prose, bang on descriptions and hold your breath suspense. The story explores the hidden roots of 19th century Mormonism with startling clarity and unblinking truth. The layered story will keep you guessing (and turning pages until you reach the explosive conclusion), and move you into a deeper understanding of the religious zealousness that has formed itself into present day Mormonism. Scott stays balanced by blending the bizarre with a healthy dose of compassion and empathy – uncovering, but not judging. The book holds the reader in an almost hypnotic state, driving you to the final page and leaving you feeling as if you’ve been somewhere mysterious and special. — Bonnie Grove, author of Talking to the Dead
Latter-Day Cipher is a book that will hold your attention while you try to unravel the mystery of a serial killer on the loose in Utah. It will introduce you to the mainstream Mormon Church and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The main character is an investigative reporter who is our guide to understanding the intricacies of Mormon Church doctrine. This is an easy read and highly enjoyable. I recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers. – reader review, Barnes & Noble
Finished the book last night..its very good! Somehow you managed to balance the story between the mystery, Christianity, Mormonism, and faith and did so without becoming preachy, dull or boring. I don’t know how you managed that either, but dang…well done!! ––Kelley Norman, book reviewer, thenovelbookworm.com (review follows):
Latter-Day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott is ostensibly a murder mystery, the book opens when a young woman, Kirsten Young is found murdered and left displayed in popular canyon. Into her flesh, odd symbols and markings are carved, and a note is found with the body written in an obscure 19th century code. The symbols and note are connected with historical aspects of the Mormon Church, and the Church, always careful to protect its image, quietly calls on a few of its members to defuse the issue.
The book quickly becomes much more than it appears. One part murder mystery and one part exposé of the theological flaws in one of the worlds most powerful religions; in addition the book addresses quite well what happens when someone suffers a crisis in faith. When the very foundations of their beliefs are shaken and cracked. Scott’s protagonists are believable, and her faith is woven throughout the story, an integral thread that holds it all together. Yet the book never stoops to shallow preachiness. Instead we see real people struggling with their beliefs and faith. Against this backdrop, Scott has devised a rousing good mystery. Add to that, the fascinating glimpse into the secret and hidden practices of the Mormon Church, and you have a compelling read that I highly recommend.
Well written and fascinating book
Award winning author LaTayne C. Scott has another hit with the suspense thriller Latter-Day Cipher. Scott takes the reader through an incredible journey of Mormon history. For this reviewer, it was a bit of deja vu having lived in Utah and being part of the Mormon church and culture for many years.
Scott brings to the Latter-Day Cipher many historically documented facts such as the Masonic links, Blood Atonement, and a gentle inside look at the hot topic in the news of polygamy. Has the media played a role in how the public perceives church tradition? As a reader you have the opportunity to take a look inside to how it began, developed, and why some will not give it up–and not for the reasons most people think. . .This is definitely a page turner all the way to the surprising end.
At the back of the book are questions for study and insights brought out in this well written and fascinating book. — Susan Storm Smith
Latayne C. Scott’s prose is engrossing and detailed
Here is one of those books that is so interesting that the mystery becomes almost secondary to what you are learning from the book, Latter Day Cipher. The author, Latayne Scott, is a former Mormon and now spends most her time warning others about the dangers of this religion and all they are about. Some of the things I knew about, like the if you are able to work your way high enough you to can be a god of your own planet and all the secrecy that surrounds all they do. I was a bit surprised by how “protective’ they are of the church, but not necessarily of each other, and then I was very surprised to learn about the blood oaths and secret hand shakes etc..
As the murders begin to mount the church is desperate to get rid of all the publicity that the murders are attracting. Is the murderer trying to send a message to the church or the world? Who are they trying to warn? Or is this the just the work of a very sick mind? . . . I know I said it before the facts and truths about the LDS almost over shadows the mystery, but it is interesting. I did have a good guess as to who it was before Latayne was ready to let us all know who did it. It wasn’t really a problem this is a good story and the action continues all the way to the end. I have to admit that it was a very eye opening book for me and if I need to have a discussion with anyone I know that has been attracted to this cult I have a couple more tools to fight against it. — Chris Jager – Baker Book House-fiction buyer
Latayne C. Scott’s prose is engrossing and detailed. Not only does her deep knowledge of Mormon doctrine shine through, but also her studies in representational research add a welcome intellectual element to the story. Selonnah Zee and the killer are authentic, absorbing characters from their first paragraphs.
Scott also avoids the traps of making her story too violent, or too preachy. Not as dark and aggressive as a Ted Dekker novel, nor as light and easy as one of Lori Wick’s stories, Scott has found a comfortable middle ground that most readers will enjoy.
I look forward to more novels from Scott. — Andrew Rogers
Fascinating Read for the Mormon “Outsider”
Latter-Day Cipher is unlike any suspense novel I’ve ever read. For someone like myself who has not had much personal experience with Mormonism, the book is an informative look into the world of the people involved in it and its fundamentalist offshoots. The reader gets to follow the main character, journalist Selonnah Zee (an “outsider looking in”), to Utah as she covers the story of a recent murder in Provo Canyon. We also get to discover along with her many of the fascinating and mysterious aspects of Mormonism through her conversations with her Mormon cousin Roger and others.
From the church’s forbiddance of caffeine drinks to its similarities with Masonic temple rituals, the reader gets to delve into the strange beliefs of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other past leaders of the cult. I was interested to learn about the Mormon perspective on the Roman Catholic church (they’re not fans.)
Some characters come to doubt their faith, and the questions they ask are valid ones that demand answers. For example, why is it that one can visit a myriad of authentic Biblical sites in the Middle East, but there is no physical evidence of the places and events recorded in the Book of Mormon in the United States?
I like how the author introduces the character of police chief Helaman. Through him, the reader gets a glimpse of the qualities Joseph Smith is said to have possessed – an overpowering charm that seemed to mesmerize both women and men, causing them to follow him no matter where his hare-brained theories led.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Mormon faith and to those who just like a good mystery. I have read two other books by this author, the first being “Mormon Mirage”, which is an enlightening non-fiction book about the history of the religion and how and why the author left the faith. (I whole-heartedly recommend that one as well.) –Wendy Rae Leaumont, graphic artist and web designer
Very cleverly written, a smart book
Great book! I was given this book as a gift and loved it. Very cleverly written, a smart book . From the first few pages, it had me hooked. I read the book in 2 days, which is unheard of for me. This book will make you think long after you turn the last page. I highly recommend this book to anybody who likes a good believable mystery.” –reader Brant Butler
An entertaining page-turner which will also inform . . .about Mormonism
What happens when you take a fictional suspense-thriller and place it in Utah, the center of Mormonism? Latayne C. Scott gives us an example in her novel Latter-day Cipher. A former Mormon who converted to evangelical Christianity, Scott helps readers understand Mormonism through a murder mystery.
The main character is Selonnah Zee, who winds up in Utah when the murders begin taking place. As a journalist, she is quickly assigned to cover the growing number of deaths which are connected by Mormonism and its history. In reporting on these complex cases, she finds herself embarking on a crash course in Mormonism, from her LDS cousin Roger to her newfound local reporter friend Anne. Can Selonnah wrap her mind around Mormonism enough to solve these crimes? And what will these crimes expose about the Mormon church? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
I admit up front that I don’t read a lot of fiction, so I’m not evaluating the book’s literary merits from a position of strength. I can see reviewers critiquing Scott’s work as being somewhat underdeveloped, with the plot serving primarily as a vehicle for teaching readers about Mormonism. With this in mind, the book may fall short for someone who’s simply looking for a good thriller.
At the same time, I really appreciate Scott in her attempt to creatively educate people about Mormonism. Many Christians and others may never pick up a book summarizing and evaluating LDS teaching. But they would likely be drawn to a contemporary murder mystery novel which is filled with information on Mormonism’s history and beliefs. Consequently, as a teaching tool, I really like her book. I would definitely give it to a Christian friend who enjoys this kind of fictional work. It even has questions for discussion in the back to think through some of the concerns and issues that she raises.
Nevertheless, I should offer a few disclaimers. First, given the nature of the crimes, the storytelling can be graphic and may be inappropriate for some readers. Second, Selonnah’s friend Anne is a Christian who explains the Trinity by using the analogy of three states of water (ice, water, and steam)—a common illustration that’s fundamentally flawed and can lead to a misunderstanding of the nature of God. Third, I don’t think the ending provides sufficient closure to the story. I can only assume that this book is meant to be the first of a series, but I felt like the book just kind of abruptly ended.
In any case, I don’t believe that these caveats should necessarily prevent Christians from reading an entertaining page-turner which will also inform them a great deal about Mormonism. I pray that the Lord will use Latter-day Cipher to better prepare His people to lovingly respond to the errors of Mormonism with the truth of biblical Christianity. —African Apologetics
Compelling and entertaining, informative and redemptive
It’s time to celebrate. My friend Latayne just released her first novel. She’s not new to publishing. Latayne’s name appears on a significant list of nonfiction books. But when I met her, she wanted to try writing fiction.
She’s either courageous or crazy, I thought. Switching from nonfiction to fiction isn’t easy. Good writers can stumble over plot, characterization, dialogue, and pacing while telling a story. How do you sustain a tale over several hundred pages? How do you know anyone is interested in the story at all? How do you make it believable and not corny?
Latayne not only answered, but conquered these questions with the Latter-Day Cipher, a murder mystery set within a Mormon community. It’s compelling and entertaining, informative and redemptive. I’m reading it for the third time. –Judith Couchman, author of over 40 published books
A compelling mystery, beautifully crafted phrasing and a plotline that doesn’t sag at the knees
I love this book.
Latayne Scott’s novel incorporates all the things that keep me reading all the way through–a compelling mystery, beautifully crafted phrasing and a plotline that doesn’t sag at the knees. Somewhere around page 261, I knew without doubt an all-nighter loomed in my immediate future.
Her opening scene has an ethereal quality that invites you to keep going– and going. The characters live with both purpose and enough human shortcomings to keep them interesting. (Note: she’s also got one of best villains ever, way too easy to identify with this miscreant and that’s scarier than any murder mystery, any day.)
Latayne’s handling of the Mormon Church and it’s changing doctrine lies balanced somewhere between criticism of the organization and compassion for the individuals inside, clearly differentiating between the two and doesn’t come across as an agenda book. It’s just a really good read.
Highly Recommended~ Connie Brzowski, author
Believable, with great depth, intellectual and stimulating, many of the descriptions are genius
I was anxious to read this book by Latayne, and I wasn’t disappointed. A thought-provoking premise written with finesse. Many of the descriptions are genius, making me reread them to savor the unusual placement of words.
The characters are believable, with great depth. I found the book to be intellectual and stimulating. However, I felt it should have been called a mystery instead of a suspense. Only a few passages had the suspense quality to them, but the mystery was well developed and kept me turning pages to the end.
You won’t want to miss reading this book. For those of you who are in the “Big Honking Chicken Club,” you won’t be scared out of your wits by this wonderful mystery. –Lena Nelson Dooley, author
Fascinated me from beginning to end
This is a suspense thriller that takes place in Utah, opening with the discovery of the murdered body of Utah socialite Kirsten Young in Provo Canyon. Strange markings are carved into her flesh along with a note written in the old Mormon Code based on Brigham Young’s Deseret Alphabet. This horrific event is followed by more murders. The story fascinated me from beginning to end. The author also weaves in historical facts regarding Mormonism’s ties to Masonry, Blood Atonement and Polygamy. –Janis Hutchinson, author
Very good job explaining the Mormon religion
There are murders taking place in Utah, where members of the Mormon religion live or in this book they are also known as Latter Day Saints. Selonnah Zee is a reporter who is sent to research and report on the murders. She meets Mormons within the community that helps to try to figure out the murders. There are many twists in this book as the story unfolds.
I enjoyed this book. I was unsure as the story unfolded how it would end but I felt that it ended in a positive way. I thought the author did a very good job explaining the Mormon religion, seeing as though she is a former Mormon herself.
I would recommend this book to anyone who might be interested in the Mormon community. The book gave me a good introduction to the Mormon community. I would also recommend this book to people who enjoy suspense or mystery. — Mae, Ijustfinished.com
Attention grabbing book, a mystery, with great suspense, wonderful representation of faith
Journalist Selonnah Zee is off for a vacation to Salt Lake City, to visit her cousin, Roger a former news reporter, Mormon convert. Her boss decides that this trip would be a great time to do a article about Mormon Temples, for the Memphis Telegraph, the newspaper she writes for.
Selonnah arrives in Utah to find out there is much more to report about, than the temples, there has been a high profile murder, which is quickly followed by 2 other murders that have weird symbolic cuttings, and ties to deep Mormon rituals. Selonnah finds herself right in the middle of the investigations. Along with coming to terms with her mom being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she is overwhelmed by it all.
Latayne C. Scott, the author of this book, a former Mormon herself, has brought us an attention grabbing book, a mystery, with great suspense. There is a wonderful representation of faith, of Annabel, a reporter in Utah, at the paper Selonnah is working with. This book will help you to understand more about Mormonism and also you will be amazed at the faith angle of this book.
Latayne, was a Mormon for 10 years, attended BYU and worked as a staff member for 2 BYU weekly magazines, she has converted to Christianity and since then has authored 13 published books. You can learn more about Latayne at www.latayne.com
Latter Day Cipher is a book that you will enjoy and is definitely a book to read and to recommend to others. –Cindy Loven, reviewer
Fictional story with historical truths to guide readers through a crash course in Mormonism
The line between Christianity and Mormonism is not always clear at the outset; and sometimes Christians struggle to pinpoint exactly how their faith is different from Mormonism. In Latter-day Cipher, author LaTayne Scott carefully weaves a fictional story with historical truths to guide readers through a crash course in Mormonism and how it differs from Christianity.
What began as a vacation to visit her cousin Roger in Salt Lake City quickly turns into a stressful working week for journalist Selonnah Zee. A string of murders have occurred in the Salt Lake area, and with each victim, the murderer leaves a note written in an ancient Mormon code. Selonnah races to piece the puzzle together and stop the murderer before he harms even more people.
Only one expressly Christian character exists in the book, but the non-Mormon characters constantly question the validity of the faith and seek a bigger God than Mormonism presents The murderer turns out to be a man who has become disillusioned with Mormonism and wants to expose its fallacies. Scott herself is a former Mormon, and with this book she presents an easy way to understand Mormon theology while showing the truth of Christianity.–Lauren Zaczek, CBA Retailers+Resources, Product Intelligencer
Engrossing and detailed prose
Latter-Day Cipher is Scott’s first published novel. It tells the story of an agnostic journalist, Selonnah Zee’s, trip to Salt Lake City, Utah. She’s researching the murder of a Utah heiress and visiting her cousin, Roger, who is a well-known Mormon figure. As Selonnah covers the story mysterious deaths occur, each seemingly unrelated, except for distinct Mormon symbolism included with each corpse. In her hunt to decipher the serial killer’s motive, Selonnah learns dark secrets of Mormonism that shock her, and likely, the reader.
Scott’s prose is engrossing and detailed. Not only does her deep knowledge of Mormon doctrine shine through, but also her studies in representational research add a welcome intellectual element to the story. Selonnah Zee and the killer are authentic, absorbing characters from their first paragraphs. —Prodigal magazine
Riveting read — highly recommend
Finished Latayne Scott’s Latter Day Cipher on the plane. The five-plus hours flew by. What a riveting read! Highly recommend. – Author Wendy Lawton, on Twitter
This intriguing story is a mystery set in Salt Lake City. It’s a rather new release, but she’s not among those famous authors. The story really got to me as I reflected how people of other religions might perceive Christianity. While the religion under the microscope in this novel is Mormonism, I think Christians would do well to take heed to some of the underlying messages this book presents. –Lynn Squire, author
Gripping suspense novel of Mormon life in Utah (Rating 5 of 5)
Author Latayne C. Scott, a former Mormon and now devout Christian, has written a gripping suspense novel remeniscent of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons – a series of strange crimes against a religious background. Scott knows her setting well – Salt Lake City, headquarters of the Mormon church and home to many Mormons, both the good kind of people who are merely trying to serve their God and raise their families in the best way they know, and the weird fanatics that make their own twisted interpretations of strange doctrines, and will go to any lengths to achieve their goals. Almost nothing about Mormon life is left out here. Every basic belief, every weird doctrine, every strange practice finds a neat place in the story, skillfully and unobtrusively woven into the plot. And it is 99% accurate (the reviewer was a believing Mormon himself for 25 years). Will a reader unfamiliar with Mormonism be able to understand all the “mormonisms” in the story? Yes, Scott has done it so well. A never-Mormon reader who read my copy had no trouble following the story, and along the way got a good picture of Mormons, both the harmless and the dangerous kind. Although there are some “bad Mormons” among the characters, many of the Mormons are portrayed sympathetically, so that this is in no way a polemic against Mormons or their religion. The author builds suspense well and keeps the reader guessing almost until the end. I am looking forward to her next novel! —Richard Packham, Amazon reviewer