Murder Among The Mormons is a really cleverly written docu-series. Split across three episodes, this well-paced story dives deep into the heart of the Mormon Church to uncover a startling revelation that could change their history forever. The infamous salamander letter and a fabled McLellin Collection are the culprits, ironically serving as two proverbial bombshell reveals. It’s not long after that Salt Lake City is rocked by two actual bombings, with their targets seemingly intent on stopping the roll-out of these documents. This inevitably sends the police force reeling, desperate to find out who is responsible – and why.
This question of why essentially anchors the three chapters together, with a perspective that changes ever-so-slightly between episodes to keep things fresh and engaging. The first episode builds up a timeline of events leading to the day of the bombing, honing in on the Mormon Church and the main players that are involved in this case.
The second episode then rallies behind police investigators, including D’Elia, who try to piece together a scattered breadcrumb trail of eyewitness accounts, interviews and possible suspects. This all leads to a shocking twist at the end of this hour segment where the real culprit is revealed. This third episode then takes a step back, showing exactly how and why this individual managed to deceive and kill in secret. I’m being careful here not to divulge spoilers but suffice to say, if you’re unaware of this tale then please go in blind – you’re in for a real treat!
Some of the reason this documentary works as well as it does comes from the run-time. Too often Netflix docu-series tend to drag out scarce material across unnecessarily long chapters. There are countless examples of well-shot, well-researched true crime shows that could be a real winner at a brisk 4 episodes. When it’s then dragged to 8 or even 10 chapters it loses its potency. Thankfully Murder Among The Mormons never waters down its story, learning the lessons of its predecessors to deliver a compelling three episode story that’s just about the right length.
A lot of the material here relies on archival news footage from the time, along with various face to face interviews from different people. One of the more prolific is that of Shannon Flynn, whose softly spoken but chilling opening statement actually comes back again at the end of the third episode with more context. This clever bit of framing reinforces how well this show manages to take you off-guard early on, believing events to zig when it actually zags. This is one documentary that will keep you guessing right to the very end.
Unlike some true crime series that leave a lot of questions on the table, Murder Among The Mormons is a concise series that gets straight to the point. It wraps everything up perfectly at the end, leaving little doubt over exactly who committed these acts, why they did this and even finishes with some poetic irony, as we learn what happens to them in prison.
The result then is one of this year’s sharper docu-series and a must watch for true crime fans. This three-part series tells its story with conviction, sharp narration from different interviewees and a few nicely arranged re-enactments late on to tie everything together. If you’ve been burned out from the bloated length of other documentaries in the past, this one is the perfect heady cocktail to reel you back in again to Netflix’s intoxicating true-crime wonders.