After reading rave reviews about "A Cry from the Dust," I decided to give it a try. This debut novel by Carrie Stuart Parks is about a woman by the name of Gwen Marcey. Gwen, a forensic artist, is in the midst of trying to pick up her life again after battling cancer and a recent divorce which left her estranged from her daughter and penniless. In her desperation, she takes a job in Utah at The Mountain Meadows Interpretive Center where she is in charge of reconstructing faces from an 1857 massacre site; something the Mormon extremists known as the Avenging Angels have been held responsible for.
The Center assigns Gwen the task of reconstructing three of the faces of survivors. As she nears the completion of her reconstructions, a woman visiting the center faints as she sees Gwen's work. Shortly after, Gwen discovers the body of this young woman at a nearby hotel. She turns out to be a young college student with a stolen identity. Given her expertise, she is called in as a forensic artist on the case.
As the case proceeds, she quickly realizes the undeniable resemblance between one of her reconstructions and the death mask of Joseph Smith. By this point, she has become the next target of the remaining Avenging Angels who believe she is in possession of something iconic that was last in Smith's possession. As the story builds, Gwen must attempt to recount Mormon history, eventually leading her to a discovery of secret societies, angry people, and more bodies. In a race against time, she is forced to stop the next modern-day massacre.
This was an incredibly well-crafted novel with some historical basis. Parks' ability to draw the reader in within the first few pages is remarkable, and I had a difficult time putting this book down. I loved that Gwen was a character based on the author, who also fought breast cancer, worked as a forensic artist, and owned a Great Pyrenees. This is probably why she was such a likable character.
I would highly recommend this book, especially if you are into crime and mystery novels. Personally, it's finding a book like this every so often that reminds me how much I love to read and why.
*BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review. All opinions are honest and my own.