The Reel Review
This three-part Netflix crime drama explores the mysterious bombings in Salt Lake City in October 1985 that targeted peddlers of antique letters – artifacts that threatened to rock the foundations of the Mormon religion to its core. Among those involved was collector Mark Hofmann and his infamous White Salamander Letter.
Told through a combination of interviews, re-enactments and archival footage, the mini-series has the sensationalistic feel of one of the many twist-filled, true crime show whodunits that are so popular now. But what easily could have been condensed into an hour and a half, instead is spread out over three somewhat repetitive hour-long episodes. Longer in this case does not mean better.
While amusing, the eccentric characters at the heart of the bizarre story give it a quixotic tone that betrays the seriousness of what actually took place. The most fascinating part of the mini-series is the last episode, when we learn much of how the mastermind meticulously carried out the crimes. But for such a drawn out mini-series, Murder Among the Mormons fails to answer a lot of basic questions, such as a clear motive, how the crime and its innuendoes negatively impacted the LDS church, or even how all of this has impacted the sale of antique documents and artifacts in the decades since.
• Jared Hess, one of the directors of Murder Among the Mormons, also directed the 2004 comedy Napoleon Dynamite and the 2016 action/comedy Masterminds.
• Spoiler alert! This 2005 article in the Deseret News provides a LOT more fascinating detail about the guilty party’s criminal activities over the years.
• Mark Hofmann and his ex-wife now communicate only via writing. The identities of his son and three daughters, the oldest whom was only 5 years old in 1988, remain private.
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