Winner of the 2015 ACFW Carol Award for best mystery/suspense/thriller!
A Christy Award finalist in suspense!
A Selah Award finalist in suspense!
A Cry from the Dust
A secret from a grim page of American history threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives.
Gwen Marcey was tops in her forensic art field. Then cancer struck, her husband divorced her, and her teenage daughter engaged in active rebellion. Gwen’s best chance to start her new life was a temporary job The Mountain Meadows Interpretative Center asked Gwen to reconstruct the faces of three intact bodies that were discovered from the wagon train massacre of more than 120 people by Mormon fanatics calling themselves Avenging Angels. But just as she is nearing completion on her reconstructions, things around the center turn deadly. Gwen discovers the ritualized murder of a young college student with a stolen identity and is called on by the local police to use her forensic art skills to aid the investigation. Soon she discovers an uncanny resemblance between one of her reconstructions and the death mask of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church. And realizes that she's the next target of the recreated Avenging Angels who believe she has an icon from the grave.
Gwen must weave through a labyrinth of Mormon history, discovering secret societies and festering grudges in a race against time.
Real life forensic artist Carrie Parks bestows her skills and experience upon a plucky heroine, then sends her rummaging through dark, unresolved history for bizarre possibilities. You haven’t read a story like this one. -NYT bestselling author, Frank Peretti
“Parks’ fast-paced and suspenseful debut novel is an entertaining addition to the inspirational genre. Her writing is polished, and the research behind the novel brings credibility to the story. An excellent book that is sure to put Carrie Stuart Parks on readers’ radar.” – 4 stars, RT Book Reviews
Publishers Weekly Review
Gwen Marcey is a forensic artist, single mother, and cancer survivor. When she accepts an assignment to reconstruct the remains of recently unearthed victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre—an incident in 1857 in which more than 100 men and women were killed by Mormon settlers in Utah—she gets entangled in a present-day murder mystery. One of the visitors to the historic site is killed, and a security guard also turns up dead. Positive that her own life is in danger, Gwen sets out to help the police and the FBI track down the killers. A good friend, her ex-husband, and her unruly teenage daughter all play their parts in Gwen’s quest for answers. Parks, in her debut novel, has clearly done her research and never disappoints when it comes to crisp dialogue, characterization, or surprising twists and turns. Contemporary Mormon fundamentalism, a clever alternative theory about the martyrdom of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, and a determined search for the truth are blended artfully in this fast-paced, exciting novel.(Aug.)
Starred Debut of the Month- Library Journal VERDICT Renowned forensic and fine artist Parks’s action-packed and compelling tale of suspense is haunting in its intensity. Well researched and written in an almost journalistic style, this emotionally charged story is recommended for fans of Ted Dekker, Mary Higgins Clark, and historical suspense.
Ok, it's 3 am here. I just finished the book. I finally got the chance to sit down and read again tonight, starting where I left off with chapter 3. I couldn't put it down until the end. And I just have to say: Oh. My. Heck!!
I sobbed my way through the Prologue. Laughed at the main character's humor. Held my breath through many parts. Felt my blood pressure raise through others. And learned things I never knew before. Now I want to read all the reference material too.
I was enthralled by your story, for many reasons. You captured not only the correct history and doctrine of Mormonism, but also the culture and the reality of it. It hit very close to home on many levels, from my own experiences in it. The reality smacks you in the face several times during this story, if you were aware at all of what was going on in Mormonism, polygamy, etc. And if you weren't, it should be a startling reason to become more aware.
I need to read it again to pick up what I missed the first time. There aren't many novels I feel that way about. But this is more than just a fictional story. Much more.
Reviewed by Julie J. Nichols for the Association for Mormon Letters
In the midst of the current controversy roiling around Salt Lake as I write, *A Cry from the Dust* takes on added relevance and interest. No, it’s not about ordaining women; it’s not a blogfest addressing LGBT issues or other contemporary crises of faith. But its fascinating central premise (which I won’t divulge in too much detail, lest I spoil everything for you) is all about the complexities and contradictions of Mormon history. The hypotheses and alternative history it proffers are very interesting indeed.
Carrie Stuart Parks is a multi-talented new voice. Raised and still living on a ranch in northern Idaho, she’s an FBI-trained forensic artist whose previous publications are how-to-draw and -water-color books. She teaches forensic drawing; she’s a Christian with Congregational and Unitarian Universalist ties; and she runs the Great Pyrenees kennel she inherited from her parents. All of these interests dovetail in *A Cry from the Dust.*
The cover of the book shows Joseph Smith’s death mask. The Prologue presents in gruesome detail the horror of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, from the point of view of one of the victims. And the rest of the novel is a wild romp through the twenty-first century world of LDS fundamentalists, alternative Mormon history, and vengeance taken over a hundred years later. Whom to trust, what to do when you can’t, and how to put the pieces together—these are the crucial questions. Even where the representation of both present-day and historical Church are skewed, the fast-paced plot keeps you turning the pages and marveling at the possibilities suggested here. It’s worth a lively book group discussion at the very least.
The protagonist is Gwen Marcey, saddled with as many problems as Parks could heap on her. A highly competent forensic artist, she’s out of work because she’s been dealing with the post-chemo effects of cancer—*and* a divorce from a narcissistic writer husband—*and* an acting-out teenaged daughter who feels unwanted by either of her emotionally burdened parents. Now Gwen’s been hired to create sculptures from the skulls of three bodies found at the new Mountain Meadows Massacre visitor’s center in southern Utah, and to deliver a carefully scripted explanation to the tourists who are sure to throng the venue.
But instead, people are agitating. This is a more controversial spot than Gwen had thought. There’s a murder—well, more than one—and with her keen observant eye and excellent drawing hand, Gwen’s talents land her in the middle of the matter. A local sheriff; an FBI agent; an ex-husband; and a beloved Great Pyrenees, all play crucial roles in the lightning-fast unfolding of this gasp-worthy dash from Mountain Meadows to Gwen’s home in Copper Creek, Montana, to Seattle, in all of which locations she is followed and haunted by rabble-rousers who believe she knows (or has) something they want, taken from the body of the murdered girl. Does she? She doesn’t think so. Readers know something she doesn’t, though, and our hearts thunder as danger follows her everywhere until she figures out the mystery.
Gwen’s best friend Beth (whose exact role I couldn’t place for some chapters—roommate? lesbian lover? a bit of a clown figure? what?) plays the slightly-crazy sidekick whose solid faith in God’s reasons helps hold Gwen together. (Post-chemo hot flashes pull her apart often enough.) An astonishing period of time as a prisoner in a fundamentalist compound teaches her a good many things about who the perpetrators might be and why—and her ingenuity in escaping teaches the reader a good many things about her intrepidity. The various deputies under whose authority she is helping to investigate the murder are dubiously honorable—this, too, is something she has to figure out as she travels madly from one site to another in search of the truth. A fair amount of time is spent in cars, or ducking around them; there’s also a bomb, and a hundred-and-fifty-year-old diary, and a very believable present-day reconciliation.
What impresses most about this first novel is the research into Mormon history (see Parks's website at http://www.carriestuartparks.com/bibliography.html for details of her sources) and the authoritative familiarity with the workings of forensic art. These, and the swift pace, the strong characterizations, the rich details of setting and historical possibility, all make for a page-turner Latter-day Saints will ponder for days. *Could* Mountain Meadows have happened that way? *Are* there still groups who carry the burdens of the past with such a spirit of vengeance? Read *A Cry from the Dust* with a couple of friends and then talk about it over dinner. You’ll be glad you did.
As someone who rarely reads this genre, I found yours to be unique, fascinating, readable, and relevant to modern day readers. The subject, given current interests in Mormonism
and forensics is sure to appeal. The last 100 pages occupied my afternoon hours yesterday as the book's intensity increased, making it a candidate for filming.
Its focus on religious fanaticism is a well -known
theme to today's readers. Much research has clearly been done on the Mormon Church, and I assume accurate. Needless to say, it will not endear you to the faithful. -Carter Cornick, FBI Terrorist Unit, (ret.)
My review: The saying "don't judge a book by its cover" does hold true. The cover of this book didn't appeal to me at all, and I almost passed on it as a book to review, but the book and author both sounded interesting, so I requested it. And then I started to read it and discovered it was written from the first person point of view, not a favorite of mine. But I kept reading. And got sucked into a great story. I really intended to read some of it and finish it another day, but it was too good to put down, so with a break for supper and few drink and bathroom breaks, I read on and until I finished the book. Maybe I don't remember everything I studied in history, or I just never studied the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but I don't remember ever hearing about it. The book is fictional, but is based on that very real event. The author spun a fascinating and suspenseful story using that event and other history about the Mormons and their leader, Joseph Smith.
I liked the characters in the book, although there were a few surprises with some of them, and although the plot was convoluted and intricate, it was easy to follow. The author has experience in forensics, and that came through in the book. And I really found the historical information about the Mormons fascinating and learned more about the religion while reading this book, and the interesting theories and ideas about the famous (at least to other people) massacre. This is a debut novel for this author, and she has hit one out of the park. Anyone who reads it should give it five stars, for it is worthy of five stars. It is truly a terrific read, and I look forward to reading the next book by this author.
My favorite part of the book was that Carrie Stuart Parks actually has a background as a forensic artist, which made all the technical ideas that Gwen does realistic. It helped the authenticity of the plot line. When Gwen was molding or drawing the face of the killer, I trusted Parks words and the actions because she actually does what Gwen does for a living.
As the story progress, Gwen is hunted by what she is led to believe as the Avenging Angels of the Mormon faith. Wanting to protect her teenage daughter and her best friend, Beth, she sends them to a peace convention outside of Seattle, Washington after she constructs a clay image of Joseph Smith head.
The character of Gwen was realistic and interesting. She worried about her family while struggling with the effects of cancer on her life, her rebellious teenage daughter, and her ex-husband who wanted a younger woman. Gwen had a lot on her plate, but she kept her focus on solving the mystery, even though there were moments where her life wanted to go array. Parks allowed the readers to empathize with Gwen. We all struggle with a lot of different things like soccer practice, boy scouts, chess club, church, aging parents, writing while trying to keep our heads above water. We understood Gwen completely.
The story has many twists and turns to come to its unforeseeable conclusion. I liked how Parks created the bad guy to be someone who most readers wouldn’t have suspected. The story features kidnapping, teenage pregnancies, and murder while trying to solve a mystery of the murder victims.
Parks does a good job at wrapping the fictional story around the items of historical significance. I learned a lot about the Mormon faith then I probably would have if I read the Mormon’s sacred text written from Joseph Smith. As an outsider, the readers will learn and observe more of the inside world of the Mormons.
My Thoughts: Oh!Wow! This is an incredible read!! I was offered this book twice and declined to read it twice. I'll be honest the cover of the book looks odd to me and then I took time to read the description and it clicked! That's a picture of a death mask. Gwen Marcey has had one too many disappointments come her way and then her co-worker is murdered, her work almost obliterated...her sanity seems like a millisecond from insanity! Poor Gwen. Gwen is a forensic artist (what a cool job!). She is recruited to unearth massacre victims at Mountain Meadows. This is where it gets interesting! The massacre concerned the Mormon church. Wow! So much history/facts about the Mormons. The suspense in this read is off the charts! This is one incredible WOW read! And I'm so glad I decided to read this debut book by Carrie! History and fiction at its best!
I had a lot of so-so reads in 2014, so when I started this one up just a couple days ago, I was thrilled to have something that made my heart race once again! This novel -- the tension it made me feel from start to finish -- reminded me of what I love so much about reading. It shows how unnerving and infuriating acts of terrorism can be, how it so often strikes in the most innocuous places, and how it doesn't necessarily have to be from an outside country to be considered terrorism. Sometimes the most frightening threats are right out our backdoor. That's what gave me the chills about this story... that terror of not knowing who to trust, who is honestly on your side.
As the story gets nearer to the end, the POV seems to flip back and forth more and more between Gwen's 1st person perspective and the 3rd person perspective of Gwen's daughter, Aynslee. At first there are definable breaks between the two ( by that, I mean that sometimes the switch happens mid-chapter but it's easy enough to see when it switches over) but as you get closer to the end, these breaks start to disappear. This may have been done to up the tension factor that much more. If so, it works!
There were a couple little cracks in the perfection for me, but oddly enough nothing that detracted this from still being on my 5 star list! I found myself riveted through and through and anxiously await the next installments (I hear this is planned as at least a trilogy, maybe more?). The couple issues I had:
1) Good Lord, but Aynslee's attitude was irritating through most of the story. I know, I know, she's a teen. And she does come around. But just like a real teen, waiting for her to get to that point and having to listen to her moan and grumble along the way.. UGH lol
2) Just a little thing, but I was surprised that as a forensic artist, Gwen didn't know what a death mask was. Really?! Seems like it would at least kind of be related to her field. I learned about the history of death masks just in general jr high history classes, so I don't know, just seemed strange that a person who specializes in forensics could completely miss hearing about them at all in their studies.
That's it though. Other than that, loved, loved, loved this. Already have Book 2 way high up on my Book Wish List now :-D
Martha Stevens-David Review: "A Cry from the Dust" by Carrie Stuart Parks By Martha Stevens-David Sep 7, 2014 - 12:12:37 AM
Upon receiving a list of books for possible review from my editor, upon seeing the title "A Cry from the Dust" and the associated publicity material, I was immediately intrigued.
The publicity material states that the main character Gwen Marcey was tops in her forensic art field and after some personal problems started a new life in a temporary job in which she had to reconstruct the faces of three intact bodies that were discovered from the wagon train massacre of more than 120 people by Mormon fanatics calling themselves Avenging Angels. (Read More) The material also said that the author Carrie Stuart-Parks has spent the past two decades teaching law enforcement personnel across the USA how to catch killers, sexual predators and other unsavory characters on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.
Having been a lover of mystery stories all of my life, starting with the "Nancy Drew" stories as a child, I couldn't wait to get this book.
Not only does this book hold you mesmerized from the very beginning, it keeps you interested until the very end. I found that the author, Carrie Stuart Parks, certainly knew her stuff. She was able to insert the main characters into the storyline in such a way that the reader feels as though he/she is right there and part of the story.
I found the author's ability to introduce the history of the "Mormon" religion while including her story, to be very educational and interesting and I finished her book feeling that I had spent my time in a "learning" situation.
Unfamiliar with the author, I decided to take a chance and request this book to review. I am so glad I did! Carrie Stuart Parks can definitely write a story to hold my attention.
The plot moved along at nearly breakneck pace with plenty of action, drama, danger, mystery, suspense, and touches of humor. Murder, conspiracy, religious cults, and home grown terrorists populate the pages of “A Cry From the Dust”. Gwen Marcey is a protagonist to love. A forensic artist who usually worked with law enforcement, Gwen’s work in Mountain Meadows reconstructing the faces of three massacre victims, Gwen finds herself smack in the middle of a murder investigation. Although she is a recent cancer survivor who has also had to deal with divorce and a rebellious teen, Gwen refuses to give in.
Parks has deftly woven Mormon history into a modern story of murder and revenge. The page-turning suspense is tempered with a bit of levity from Gwen’s best friend who loves to use unusual words, Gwen’s huge Great Pyrenees, and Gwen’s own wry sense of humor. Unexpected twists and surprises are scattered throughout and the suspense increases with each page.
It looks like I have yet another new author to add to my “Must Read” list. I can’t wait for the next book in this series, “The Bones Will Speak”.
Most of the time when I finish reading a book, I don’t write the review immediately. I generally give it a couple of days to let the ideas percolate just a bit before I commit words to paper. With my latest completed novel, I couldn’t wait to write the review. A Cry From the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks grabbed my attention like no other book that I’ve read in the last six months. Part of it could be its historical fiction. (I like history.)
This book is historical fiction in the same way that The Da Vinci Code is historical fiction — light on history and heavy on the fiction. It has all the thrill, mystery, religion, and espionage that Dan Brown’ work does, except that it is set in the Mormon universe rather than the Catholic. Let’s remember here, though, that this is for entertainment, not a valid attempt to record history. The suppositions made by this novel outside the recorded history of the event initially detailed are by the author only to propel her novel.
A little actual history first. The Meadow Mountain Massacre was a real event which took place in Utah at Meadow Mountain in September, 1857. The Fancher-Baker wagon train was coming from Arkansas and heading to new land in California. The Nauvoo Legion, a militia composed of members of the Latter Day Saints, surrounded the wagon train as the emigrants camped at the meadow before continuing their journey. Once the militia had the settlers surrounded, they disguised themselves as Native Americans and attacked the defenseless wagon train.
Suspicious that the wagon train member may have accidentally seen the true identity of the attackers, they approach under a flag of truce whereupon they kill almost all the surviving members of the Fancher-Baker party. Of the nearly 140 settlers, only seventeen were spared, all children under the age of seven.
In Parks’s work, her novel’s premise is that Mormon founder, Joseph Smith did not actually die in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844. He escaped from the Carthage Jail and a body double killed in his place. Over the next thirteen years, Smith hides in the shadows, avoiding the man who succeeded him as leader of the church, Brigham Young.
Fast forward to present-day. Gwen Marcey is a forensic anthropologist who has been hired by the new interpretive center at Meadow Mountain. It’s her job to reconstruct the faces of the three bodies that were found on the site in order to determine identity. When a woman in a tour group faints upon seeing the facial reconstruction of one of the skulls, it starts a series of mayhem including murder and double-crossing.
Gwen is fired by the director of the interpretive center after the uproar caused by the fainting woman and Gwen’s irascibility with regard to religious zealotry. Her real adventure begins when she attempts to visit the fainting woman only to find that she has been ritualistically murdered. In the meantime, all her work at the interpretive center is destroyed and one of the security guards is killed in the same style as the woman.
When it is discovered that the murdered girl had stolen another girl’s identity, Gwen volunteers to question the parents of the stolen identity girl. She discovers a link to a fundamental branch of the Latter Day Saints. With help from her assistant, she also learns that the ritualistic style of death of the first two victims is tied to the same fundamental group. What are they trying to hide? Gwen is determined to discover the truth.
Questions arise as to who are her real friends and who are the ones keeping her close enough to do their bidding or to make sure she doesn’t get too close to the truth. Just like Robert Langdon, she races from site to site, collecting clue after clue. She is kidnapped by the group of fundamentalists, but escapes using her breast cancer to fool her captors. (Really, you’ll have to read it.)
This book is fast paced and will keep you engaged for all 360 pages. While some of the peripheral characters were not fleshed out to their fullest extent, the main characters were exceptionally well developed. Parks takes her own experience as a breast cancer survivor to define her main character, Gwen Marcey. She offers valuable insights on the disease and it’s effects that give a far greater depth to Gwen. In addition, her career as a forensic artist is carried over to her character.
Carrie Stuart Parks takes a relatively obscure moment from our own history and writes and epic “what if.” She capitalizes on some inconsistencies in the official record and takes off on a tangent. Sure, it’s highly unlikely that Joseph Smith faked his death only to be murdered by order of Brigham Young 14 years later. However, it is a highly entertaining novel that investigates that very notion. It is important to remember that this is for the reader’s enjoyment rather than an attempt to rewrite history. It’s just great fun.
I think it is important to note that this is Carrie Stuart Parks’ first novel. In my opinion, it is very well written, coherent, fun and terrifyingly addictive. I could not put this book down. I was pleased to read on her website that she has a second book due out in August 2015. The Bones Will Speak will continue the adventures of forensic artist, Gwen Marcey. I can’t wait.