(creator: Andrew Hunt)
|Art Oveson is a 29 year old year old husband, father of a very young son and daughter, and lifelong Mormon just getting his start as a Salt Lake County Deputy, and struggling to emerge from the long shadow of his late father (shot while on duty as assistant chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department) and his three older brothers, all of them in law enforcement.
He had served the customary time on a Latter Day Saints mission (in his case in the comparatively easy location of Los Angeles) and scrupulously attends services every Sunday, but his Mormon faith does not prevent him lying when necessary, and, even when his life is threatened, it does not seem to occur to him to pray.
He is the narrator throughout, and describes himself as "gangly" with "auburn hair, high cheekbones, long neck" with a passion for ice cream (his "favorite food"). He explains to his wife, "I've spent a lifetime running away from the things that scare me. I don't know why. Maybe it's my poor health. Maybe it was Dad's death. I don't know. I'm always so frightened by the world." Clara tells him, "Don't sell yourself short .... That's always been your biggest problem - not giving yourself enough credit .... You've got a heart full of kindness." He goes on to prove himself a determined and persistent investigator.
Andrew Hunt (1968 - ) was raised in California and Salt Lake City in Utah. He was awarded a BA and later a PhD in history at the University of Utah. He then began teaching at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada where he is now a professor of US History, and he also lives in Waterloo. He is the author of several non fiction books as well as City of Saints (reviewed below), for which he won the Tony Hillerman prize, awarded annually for the best first mystery set in the southwest of the USA. He is the single father of a teenaged son and daughter and is also deeply involved in animal rights issues.
City of Saints (2012)
City of Saints is based on an actual unsolved crime that occurred in Salt Lake City in February, 1930. When beautiful socialite Helen Kent Pfalzgraf gets run over seven times with her own Cadillac, newly appointed Salt Lake County Deputy Art Oveson finds himself thrust into the role of detective. With his partner Roscoe Lund, a foul-mouthed, hard-bitten former strike-breaker, whom at first he loathes, he begins to pursue Pfalzgraf's murderer - or murderers. Their search gets him involved with a cowardly sheriff seeking re-election who tries to stop Art's investigations, and a prominent local physician with a host of skeletons in his closet, and it is not long before they uncover rumours of an affair between the murder victim and an elusive Hollywood star. It soon becomes obvious that Salt Lake City is not such a city of saints after all.
Although the story gets off to a good start, the interest begins to tail off, as Art begins to seem more and more of a weak and prissy character. As the sheriff's yes man, he gets promoted to senior deputy, but, as Roscoe tells him, "You're wet behind the ears". But Roscoe also sees his potential and reassures him, 'One day, you're going to make the hell of a lawman". And the story grabs the attention once again when attention turns to Dr Pfalzgraf, husband of the murdered woman, whom Art has been instructed not to investigate. But Art won't give up the hunt and even risks his life by looking for evidence in a highly dangerous deserted mine where in his desperation he starts talking to himself, "Keep going, Art .... You're going to make it". It seems odd that as a practising Mormon, prayer does not come into it. But, as he is ready to admit, "Even though my religion taught me that if I died I would be reunited with my family in the hereafter, I found little comfort in that thinking."
However, it moves on to a strong and exciting ending that helps explain why the book has been well reviewed. But the Mormon experience is never adequately described and, from the admittedly limited point of view of someone looking for a clerical type detective, Art comes as rather a disappointment. It is intended that he should feature in further novels and the author will doubtless develop his character - but it seems no part of his intention to explore or explain his religious motivation.
The author has his own website, and there is an aricle about him on Wikipedia. There is also an entertaining YouTube clip including him imitating Ronald Reagan as part of one of his university lectures.
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|The cover is not very informative, but it's a good story.|