A Cry From the Dust (Gwen Marcey #1), by Carrie Stuart Parks

Four stars

In her debut novel, Parks presents a powerful story whose action does not stop until the final page. Desperate for work after a recent battle with cancer and divorce, Gwen Marcey finds herself at the Mountain Meadows Information Center in Utah, home of the infamous massacre which, in 1857, marked a dark day in the Mormon Church. Using her background as a forensic artist, Marcey is working on reconstructing skulls found in the area. After a group of protesters cause trouble at the Center, two people are found murdered by the following morning and Marcey cannot help but want to solve the mystery. Returning home to handle a rebellious teen daughter, Marcey discovers that there is a religious undertone to these murders and that the Mormon Church is at the centre of the controversy. Using a patchwork of Church history and a skull that may hold significance, Marcey begins working with the FBI to lure out a set of Mormons who call themselves the Avenging Angels, tasked with handling issues within the Church. When Marcey pushes too hard for answers, she finds herself caught in the middle of the Angels and uncovers the master plan, set to play out on the anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Unsure who she can trust while being framed for murder, Marcey must reach the authorities and save her daughter before devastation strikes again. Parks grips the reader from the opening pages and weaves a masterful novel that mixes historical fact with mysterious fiction. A novel not to be missed by those who love forensic-based mysteries.

When I discovered Parks recently, I could not believe how strong her writing could be. I parachuted into the second book in the series when offered an advance copy and wondered how much backstory would emerge in this, the first novel. While the reader is given some more context into Gwen, Aynslee, and even Gwen’s friend, Beth, there is much that is only insinuated and could be fleshed out into more flashback pieces. Parks tells a very strong story and uses what she knows best, forensic art, to carve a niche into this well-established genre. The amount of research that must have gone into the novel is astounding and it surely caused its share of controversy, though the reality in which it is rooted makes it all the more plausible. Parks uses these strong factors to sculpt a great story, with strong characters and believable dialogue, all while ensuring the reader is kept on edge with no chance to lull themselves into a spot of comfort. The jump to fiction writing was a profitable gamble for Parks and her fan base should grow exponentially with further novels of this calibre.  

Kudos, Madam Parks for this sensational piece. I am pleased that I stumbled onto your novel and cannot wait to read more of your work, in the years to come.