Author: Avraham Azrieli
Author: Avraham Azrieli
Avraham Azrieli's fifth work of fiction, The Mormon Candidate opens when journalist and photographer Ben Teller, while participating in the annual Marine Corps Veterans' Ride, witnesses a tragic accident close to the Camp David Scenic Overlook. One of the bikers, Zachariah Hinckly loses control of his Harley and drops down over a steep hillside landing at the bottom of a steep, rock precipice. Before the motorcyclist dies, Teller manages to shoot several photographs of him and captures what appears to be his last words.
Within the vicinity of the accident, Teller soaks up some very interesting tidbits of information revealed to him by some of the other motorcyclists. Apparently, Hinckly was travelling at a very high speed and there was another biker riding a white Ducati motorbike who came out of nowhere, like a ghost, and seemingly intimidated him. Teller also notices the weird behavior of a police officer who is removing Hinckly's watch and wallet, as well as a square object resembling a piece of cardboard about the size of a DVD case. Teller has a premonition that this was not an accident as the police would like us to believe.
Returning to the scene of the tragedy, Teller uncovers half buried in the ground the deceased's iPod touch. He is now determined more than ever to find out what were the last words of the deceased and was this really an accident or foul play? His girlfriend Keera is not exactly ecstatic about all of this and tells him to drop it for fear that something awful may happen to him, and as our story unfolds, she was not wrong in her assessment.
When Teller opens Hinckly's iPod, he finds articles from the Washington Post news website concerning Presidential candidate Joe Morgan and his prospects of winning the presidency. The iPod also discloses Hinckly's explosive private diary mentioning that if anyone is reading his journal, it means that he is no longer alive and that his death was caused by the events related in the journal.
Teller learns that Hinckly was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints and that the mission of the Mormons, as its followers are known, is to lead the United States. To accomplish this feat it is essential that young men are employed in every branch of government where their personal excellence would bolster their image and extend the reach of their True Gospel. As a result, Hinckly was persuaded that it was his duty to join the Marines. During his service, Hinckly was nearly killed and only as a result of the brave actions of a Jewish Captain, who lost his own life, that his was spared.
When Hinckly returns to civilian life, he follows once again the orders of Bishop Joe Morgan (the same individual who is running for president of the USA), and joins the Department of Veterans Affairs. What is quite disturbing is that Hinckly is asked by Morgan to steal certain DVA records, particularly those involving winners of the US Medal of Honor. According to Morgan's personal revelation, it is imperative that these individuals, no matter what faith they belonged to, be posthumously baptized as Mormons.
One of these heroes happens to be the Jewish Captain that saved Hinckly's life. No doubt, you have to feel sorry for Hinckly who now finds himself facing quite an emotional and ethical dilemma, particularly when it concerns a marine hero of the Jewish faith who saved him while sacrificing his own life and his religious leader who is seeking to become the president of the United States.
Plotted like a cinematic thriller, Azrieli has come up with a very powerful novel accelerated by a fluid narrative style that is laced with some troubling undertones. In addition, at work here is his extraordinary magic in making his readers as eager as his protagonist in uncovering the truth and thus effectively creating pervasive fear and suspense.
And no doubt, depending on which political camp you belong to, this provocative novel is either likely to fascinate you or offend you. Azrieli probably foresaw these reactions, particularly in light of his unflattering depiction of Mormonism and its belief in posthumous baptisms. In his “A Note To The Reader” he writes: “as far as the factual background against which the story is told, every effort has been made to remain true to reality.” He further explains that all references to the Mormon Church, including its theology, inner workings, and religious practices have been based on extensive research wherein he does provide at the end of the novel a bibliography of primary research sources.