On the face of it, Jon Krakauer’s latest piece of investigative journalism is a gripping and gruesome story of the men behind the 1984 murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty in American Fork, Utah. Dan and Ron Lafferty, members of an upstanding Latter-day Saint family in Utah, had become involved in the world of Mormon fundamentalism. It was through their participation within this network of polygamous clans led by charismatic leaders that the Lafferty brothers became convinced that plural marriage should never have been abandoned, and it was also there they discerned that God had called them to kill the wife and infant daughter of their youngest brother, Allen.
Krakauer, a writer who has previously narrated accounts of high adventure on Mount Everest and in the wilderness of Alaska, clearly revels in tales of people who push the bounds of ordinary human experience. Accordingly, in this latest book he draws together research on the history of Mormonism, newspaper accounts of the murders, and interviews with both the convicted murderers and those connected with them, to render a dramatic and evocative description of the crime.