About the Book
Author: Thomas Shawver
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Thomas Shawver, author of The Dirty Book Murder and Left Turn at Paradise, returns to the surprisingly lethal world of rare books with a third enthralling novel featuring a most unlikely hero — antiquarian bookseller Michael Bevan.
A furious man from nearby Independence, Kansas demands that Michael Bevan return a rare first edition of the Book of Mormon, claiming that it was mistakenly sold by a disgruntled descendant of A.J. Stout. Contained on the frontispiece are a list of Ford names dating from 1845 to the present. Beside each name, save the last two, is a check mark – but what could the checks signify? With this discovery, Michael Bevan stumbles onto a trail of hatred and murder stretching back to 1844.
Thomas Shawver is a former marine officer, lawyer, and journalist with American City Business Journals. An avid rugby player and international traveler, Shawver owned Bloomsday Books, an antiquarian bookstore in Kansas Cit
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June 27, 1844
Four Mormons resided on the second floor of the Carthage jail when the attack began.
The mob crashed the door down and Hyrum Smith was the first to die, felled by five musket balls. Joseph fired six shots at his brother’s killer, nearly severing the man’s arm. More bullets and balls poured into the room from the hallway, missing Willard Richards but wounding John Taylor. Joseph rushed to the window, only to be greeted by a seething multitude of vengeful men below.
In full-throated despair the Mormon prophet cried out the Masonic symbol of distress: “Oh, Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow’s son?” Then bullets fired from the doorway struck him in the back so that he fell from the window. He landed on his shoulder and rolled over unconscious. One of the militia ran forward and pulled him against a well curb. Joseph Smith opened his eyes but there was no light in them. Colonel Levi Williams of the Warsaw militia ordered his men to “shoot the damned rascal.” Four men did their duty: The Prophet was dead.
When one of the killers stepped forward to cut off Smith’s head with a bowie knife, the sun shone through the overcast sky for the first time that day, illuminating the yard. The butcher’s hand froze, the four who had fired the killing shots dropped their muskets, and the fear of an angry God scattered the rest.
Two nights later, a select group of Saints met in the cellar of the temple to take a sacred oath. They called themselves Danites, the shock troops of the Nauvoo Legion. Sidney Rigdon, Porter Rockwell, Lewis Dana, Bill Hickman, and Alonzo Stagg formed the sharp edge of a very bloody sword.
Each had killed without fear of earthly or heavenly retribution those apostates who had fled from Mormonism and any gentiles who dared challenge them. Each had served as personal bodyguard to the Prophet. They had been bloodied in the Missouri wars and they would be bloodied again.
In the flickering light of forty candles they donned their special garments and sang a hymn of vengeance. When it ended, Sidney Rigdon, self-proclaimed protector of the church, held out a bucket containing slips of paper with the names of the traitors and said: “Here you go, boys. Take these men that you can’t do anything with but cut their throats and bury them. You’ll be saving a wicked man’s soul by spilling his blood on the ground like Joshua of old.”
Lewis Dana picked the first slip. He nodded grimly when he read the name of his friend, Jonathan Dunham. The fate of Frank Worrell, a jail guard who had let the mob pass through the front door, belonged to Porter Rockwell. Bill Hickman selected Governor Thomas Ford, leaving Colonel Williams to be handled by Alonzo Stagg. But the latter insisted on trading with Hickman for the governor.
As the men prepared to leave the cellar, Alonzo Stagg proclaimed: “Because it was I who was used by the villain to take our beloved lamb to slaughter, I will avenge the blood of the Prophet in my lifetime; and I will teach my children to avenge the blood through the taking of the murderer’s children and then have them teach their children and children’s children to the sixth generation as long as there is one descendant of the murderers upon the earth.”
Sidney Rigdon clasped Alonzo in his arms and through manly tears declared, “Thy will be done!” Taking from the table his own Book of Mormon, the one given him by Joseph Smith many years earlier, he inscribed something on the front page and dated it. Then he silently handed it to Stagg, who accepted the gift with the solemnity of a vigilant soldier.
Nearly two centuries later, three young men stood trembling before five caskets that held the bones of their ancestors. A sixth lay empty, awaiting the final avenger.