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Identical ritual murders two thousand miles apart.
A missing Mormon relic long thought to be just a myth.
Investigating the connection, what reporter Michael Chenault uncovers may not only determine the next Presidential election, but cause an entire religion to come tumbling down.
If he can stay alive.
Greenwich Village. November 5. Present day.
I gotta find that one missing piece was the last thing Michael Chenault remembered thinking before closing his eyes that night. The solving of a jigsaw puzzle was not a literal reference, but over the past thirteen years that was how he had come to think of his job as an investigative reporter. He would slowly but surely come across one seemingly unrelated tip or lead after another, some appearing to have absolutely no connection to the next, but after a while,after enough twisting and turning of the “pieces,” the puzzle–his story–would begin to take shape.
As he lay in bed, drifting somewhere in the land between sleep and awake, and running through the events of the past day, he at last began to feel the heavy, blissful wave of sleep he’d been waiting for start to roll over him. That’s when the faraway, but piercing electronic buzzing began. The first thing that ran through his mind was the annoying sound was just part of a dream, but the persistent buzzing kept on, until Chenault finally realized he was indeed awake and that his late night visitor likely wouldn’t stop pressing his door intercom until he answered.
Looking a second too long over at the digital glow of his alarm clock, the numbers “2:45” seared into his eyes so that even after he closed them and rolled back on to his pillow, he continued to see the numbers on the back of his eyelids. Christ almighty, he thought, as he rolled out of bed and heaved an exasperated sigh, doesn’t anybody in this town ever sleep? Despite the clanking radiators running full blast throughout his two bedroom apartment, the old oak floors still felt as cold against his bare feet as the frozen city sidewalks outside, as he trudged to the front door wearing only boxers and an old gray tee shirt with a faded “New York Mets” logo emblazoned across his chest.
As he approached the end of his short hallway and flicked on the light, Chenault caught a brief glimpse of himself in the mirror by the front door and half laughed over his disheveled appearance. Although he might have passed for an aging male model with his trim medium build and six foot height, Chenault’s features were slightly askew with a visible break in his nose that he had never bothered to have corrected. Along with his five o’clock shadow, his mussed, dark hair in a longish, over-the-ear style was probably more befitting of someone in his early twenties than for a man a few years away from forty. People he met often would tell him that he kind of looked like a certain actor, but they could never seem to remember the actor’s name or which films he had been in, so Chenault never quite knew whether to be flattered or not.
“Who is this?” Chenault muttered into the intercom by his door, making sure to convey a certain degree of irritation in his greeting, half expecting it to be one of his neighbors who’d partied a little too hard that night and misplaced their keys.
“Police. Buzz us in.”
Other than a few New York state gambling statutes he’d probably violated earlier in the evening at his regular Friday night poker game, Chenault couldn’t think of any other laws he’d broken lately, and at the moment he wasn’t covering any stories that worthy of note. “I’m sorry, what is this concerning?”
As his uninvited guests made their way up the building’s three flights of stairs, Chenault threw on an old, plaid flannel robe and a pair of well-worn slippers before opening the door.
“I’m Detective Wheatly. This is Detective Garcia. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”
Well obviously, Chenault mused to himself as he closed the door behind them. “At 3:00 in the morning?” he said through a yawn.
“Actually, it’s only. . .2:48,” the portly, middle-aged detective informed him after glancing at his watch.
By his pale complexion, the mustachioed Wheatly appeared to do most of his work at night. The wiry, and better-dressed Garcia appeared to be the junior partner of the duo, with his jet black hair gleaming with “product,” and a stylishly trimmed goatee and sideburns framing the lower portion of his bronzed face. By his demeanor, he gave the impression he was indifferent to the proceedings as he casually glanced around the well-kept apartment, the décor of which could perhaps best be described as “New York City men’s club.” Mahogany paneled walls in the main living area, overstuffed, brass studded leather chairs, wall-to-wall bookshelves lined with Chenault’s past, present, and future reading material, and a few tasteful oil paintings completed the ensemble. The only modern touches he noticed were a high-end stereo system accompanied by an extensive blues and jazz collection, most of which was still on vinyl, and a wall-mounted flat screen with a nearby library of mostly classic films.
“So how you afford a place like this?” Garcia asked in his accented English.
With a raised eyebrow, Chenault glanced over to Wheatly as if to pose the one word question, Seriously?, before looking back to Garcia.
“. . .Rent control. So what is it that you have to ask me that’s so important that you couldn’t have waited until, say like 9 a.m. and over the phone?”
“Well, seeing as how you’re our only possible suspect right now, we didn’t want to take the chance you might not be here at 9 a.m.” Wheatlyanswered.
“Suspected of what?” Chenault shot back as if he’d been insulted.
“First, we need to advise you that you don’t have to speak to us if you don’t want to, and if you need a lawyer and can’t afford one, one can be provided for you. Also, anything you say. . .”
“Wait a minute!” Chenault interrupted. “You’re reading me my rights?”
When Wheatly nodded in reply, Chenault first shook his head in exasperated disbelief. “. . .I’m really tired fellas. I know you’re just doing your job, but I’ve hardly slept in the last three days, and I really don’t feel like going downtown with you to the pokey tonight. So just what’s this all about?”
Wheatly, not used to having his slightly botched rendition of Miranda rights waived half way through, was at first put off until he realized that the sleep deprived Chenault might very possibly hang himself with a few careless answers. “. . .Do you know a Martin Koplanski?”
“No, I don’t know a Martin Koplanski.”
“Well then, would you know why records were found of a phone call placed from Mr. Koplanski to you, and why your work address was in Mr. Koplanski’s possession?”
Chenault paused for a moment. “. . .That’s what you got me out of bed for at three o’clock in the morning? Look, I can only guess this is someone I talked to one time about a story.”
“What kind of story?” Wheatly asked.
“Do you not know who I work for?”
“Yeah, The New York Times. What, are we supposed to be impressed?”
“No, it’s just I write stories for a living. I’m a journalist.”
“Isn’t that just a fancy word for ‘reporter’?” Wheatly said with a somewhat derisive note in his voice.
“You got me.”
“All I know is, this Koplanski didn’t have much of anything to do with anybody–he didn’t get out much, if you get my drift. He places just four long distance calls in the last two weeks–one to his daughter, one to you, and one each out to L.A. and someplace out in Utah, and two days later after talking to you, he turns up dead.”
“Murder?” Chenault said with half a laugh. “Well why not go wake up somebody out in L.A. or Utah?”
“Because Koplanski lived upstate and it just seemed like a little shorter drive for you to kill him.”
“And I killed him because. . .he called me on the phone?”
“I don’t know, why don’t you tell us?”
“Fellas, I don’t mean to be rude, but unless you’ve got anything else, or you’re gonna take me downtown, I’m going back to bed.”
“You don’t seem to have a whole lot of remorse. We tell you someone you know got offed, and you want to go back to bed.”
“Guys, if you haven’t figured out yet, I don’t even know who you’re talking about. I probably talk to close to fifty people a day or more. Naturally, I feel bad some poor guy got murdered, but it’s really got nothing to do with me.”
“Yeah, that’s an original defense–‘You don’t know nothin’ about it.’ You ever hear that one before, Julio?”
“No, never,” the Hispanic detective deadpanned.
“You guys are a regular ‘Laurel and Hardy.’ Look, I tell you what,” said Chenault. “Give me your card and I’ll come downtown tomorrow and answer whatever questions you have. And I’m really not normally this cranky, but I’ve got to get some sleep. When I get to work, I’ll look up and try to see what I have on this guy. Deal?”
Review by Mayra Calvani
Jack L. Brody’s The Moroni Deception is an exciting page-turner in the tradition of The DaVinci Code, one that will be relished by fans of suspense thrillers.
The presidential election is just around the corner and it looks as though charismatic Republican candidate and Utah senator Brockston Ratchford is going to win. The fact that his wife has been brutally murdered and his daughter kidnapped has only gained him public sympathy.
However, his wife isn’t the only one whose throat has been cut from ear to ear and whose forehead has been marked with strange symbols. A retired history professor by the name of Martin Koplanski has suffered the same fate, and the fact that he’s the author of a book that apparently doesn’t sit well with the powers that be in the Mormon Church doesn’t look like a coincidence.
New York Times journalist Chenault begins working on the story. With the help of Rachel Potter, a fledgling reporter for the The Salt Lake Tribune, he sets out to investigate the murders. Soon, a dark grim history begins to emerge, one of ancient artifacts, secret societies, and a mysterious prophecy that points to none other than Senator Ratchford.
Who, in fact, is The Prophet? Who is meant to be The Great Restorer? As the clock ticks and the presidential election approaches, the bodies pile up.
I enjoyed this novel immensely. The Moroni Deception is a hell of a ride. The pace is quick, the characters compelling, the stakes high. I really liked Chenault. He’s smart and sympathetic and has a good heart. I especially like that he’s not one of those tortured journalist heroes with a bitter past and prone to drinking. That was refreshing. The ending is surprising and satisfying.
The Moroni Deception is a controversial novel in the same way as The DaVinci Code is. So if you enjoy thrillers with religious and historical undertones, you’ll get a kick out of this one.