Review of Vampires in the Temple

Here at BCC Press, we don’t have any tricks for you this Halloween season. But we’ve got lots and lots of treats, including Vampires in the Temple--the best Mormon vampire book–or vampire book by Mormons, or book about vampires hanging around any iconic religious structure–ever written. Reviewed here by our friend Melissa Fox.

Melissa Fox has made time in her life for lots of “little” things: being the Children’s Outreach Coordinator at Watermark Books, working on her MLIS degree, helping out with the parent organizations (well, the drama department) at the high school, and being the co-blog editor for the Cybils Blogging Award. Even with all those small commitments, she still manages to find time to (kind-of, sort-of) blog at Book Nut. She’s often surprised that she’s been doing this whole blogging thing since 2004. And since there’s not enough going on in her life, she’s also the wife of an absent-minded professor and mother to four daughters (though she’s down to only two living at home!). 

When readers read the word “vampire,” a certain image is conjured up: vampires are undead, only coming out at night, and prefer to suck the blood of young virgins. Mette Ivie Harrison sidesteps the most common images for these blood-sucking creatures in her 2018 novel Vampires in the Temple (By Common Consent Press). Mette Harrison’s vampires are none of those things.

Instead, in this alternative history, Harrison imagines that vampires were an ancient species, one that somehow missed the evolutionary development track and lived in the isolated Salt Lake Valley. When Brigham Young and the pioneers arrived, they did what all white settlers did: pushed the native peoples aside–the Shoshone tribe and the “vampires” alike. The vampires were corralled onto what we know as Antelope Island, after which the higher ups in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began spreading rumors as to the real nature of these indigenous people.

For those looking for Twilight-style vampires, Harrison’s creatures are much less genteel; however, she does briefly gesture to Myers’ creatures; her novel is in no way fan fiction. Harrison forges her own distinct version of nearly human beings who consume blood.

Harrison’s novel is an interesting take on the vampire lore, extending it to be a metaphor for the way white people appropriated native land and subjugate native people. However, there was a large part of me that wished Harrison had called them something besides “vampire,” because my expectations were constantly being checked.

While the novel is tangentially about the dangers and horrors of colonialism, the main focus is on the murder of the fiancé of Jack Hardy, our main character. She is found drained of blood on the causeway to Vampire Island. While it looks as though she was attacked by them, Jack—a police detective–feels something is off.

As Jack begins digging into the murder, he uncovers layers in his fiancé’s life–as well as layers of conspiracies within the local Latter-day Saint congregations and the Church headquarters, conspiracies that go back to Brigham Young’s time and have everything to do with the relationship between Salt Lake City saints and the vampires.

In many ways, I felt this was a Mormon version Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code: a story full of hidden secrets, extending up through the (very male) ranks of the Church (though not reaching to the highest echelons) with a prophecy at its core. It’s the same kind of thrilling ride: action, suspense, and danger at every turn, while “everyman” Jack (though with a secret of his own) tries to figure out what’s going on, all while being warned to drop the case. Harrison is an excellent storyteller who knows how to keep the reader turning pages, even as the plot becomes more somewhat convoluted.

I don’t know who would serve as this book’s ideal audience. Like The Da Vinci Code, I think it will put off more faithful members of the Church while remaining a bit too inaccessible for those not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though, with Hardy himself being an “outsider” living in Utah, perhaps his serving as the protagonist who requires some explanation of LDS church history and culture at times will help the book find a broader audience of those who enjoy a good, if religious, paranormal thriller.

 

 

Comments

  1. Bro. Jones says:

    I am backlogged in my reading list but I am really excited to read this.

  2. There was a patch where the reveals seemed to be a bit much for me. The mythology seemed to be piling on a bit. Once these were all out of the way, though, I enjoyed the alternate world and the book. I understand it is the first of a planned trilogy, but it is fine as a stand-alone book.

  3. Paperbackw says:

    I’ve been following Book Nut for years so it’s a surprise to see Melissa show up here! Love her reviews, and can’t wait to read this one as well.

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