Picks and Pans Review: Under the Banner of Heaven

updated 07/21/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/21/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Jon Krakauer

After brilliantly chronicling struggles between man and nature (Into Thin Air, Into the Wild), Krakauer wobbles in this timely but disappointing examination of religious extremists set in the American West. Interwoven with a wordy retelling of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the more compelling tale of a former church member named Dan Lafferty, who, acting on what he claims were orders from God, slaughtered his sister-in-law and her baby in 1984. With his born-in-America anti-hero, Krakauer will remind readers that any religion can be twisted to malign purposes. But Lafferty comes across as a pot-smoking, gambling drifter more hungry for power than grace. For some, religion may be worth killing over; for him, it was a lame excuse. (Doubleday, $26)

BOTTOM LINE: Underwhelming

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