The Colony: Faith and Blood in a Promised Land

Liveright: Norton. Jun. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9781631498077. $27.95. HIST
Investigative journalist Denton (The Bluegrass Conspiracy) probes the 2019 massacre of nine women and children as part of a larger study of fundamentalist Mormon sects in Mexico. Dual US-Mexican citizens, the victims of the presumed drug cartel ambush were members of a fundamentalist Mormon sect that practices polygamy—more than a century after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abolished the practice. Denton ventures back to the establishment of the Mormon church in the 1830s, its bitter internecine conflicts over polygamy and heirship, and the emergence of breakaway sects that emigrated to Mexico. Denton pays closest attention to the troubled LeBaron family, whose cross-border blood feud had claimed dozens of lives in the 1970s. By 2019, Colonia LeBaron had been gobbling up precious Mexican water and land for years, outraging the settlement’s poorer Mexican neighbors. Leaders also allegedly consorted with NXIVM, a U.S. cult whose founder was convicted of sex trafficking in 2019. As Denton reveals, the massacre’s circumstances are much thornier than official accounts suggest.
VERDICT Riveting, insightful, ripped from the headlines, this should appeal to fans of true crime and of Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.
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