Without a Prayer: The Death of Lucas Leonard and How One Church Became a Cult

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$26.95  $25.06
Pegasus Crime
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.1 X 1.3 inches | 1.2 pounds
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About the Author

Susan Ashline's journalism career spans more than 25 years. Her work has received major awards, including an Emmy nomination for a public broadcasting societal concerns program, a first place Associated Press award for general excellence in individual reporting, and a Gold Medal Award for Democrat and Chronicle online excellence. She lives in Rochester, New York.


Susan Ashline's narrative of group pathology is a cautionary tale of toxic mind control over a vulnerable religious flock. The consequences include unwarranted inhumane treatment for many--and a life of torment punctuated by death for one, the youth Lucas Leonard. The nightmare doesn't quite reach the nadir of the Jim Jones mass tragedy, but it's enough to inspire a series of Stephen King horror stories. The moral: If someone claims he or she has a direct line to God and you must obey whatever you're ordered, RUN! For your life.--James Presley, author of 'The Phantom Killer' and 'A Saga of Wealth'
This book feels compelled by compassionate outrage, all the more so for being written with such cool and controlled precision. With her sharp instinct for the right detail Susan Ashline brilliantly conjures the small town setting in which the Word of Life cult managed to flourish, and makes the ensuing horror story seem quite alarmingly real. She also shows how evil can live among us, banal for all its excesses, bizarrely consoling to those who fall under its spell.--Laura Thompson, author of 'A Tale of Two Murders' and 'Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life'
An excellent debut. Meticulously researched, this is a gripping account, but it's not for the faint-hearted.-- (07/22/2019)
An in-depth portrait of a cult and its downfall after the murder of one of its members. Readers looking for a cult origin story will find this a captivating read.-- (07/29/2019)
Basing her work on extensive interviews with former churchgoers, as well as police, prosecutors, and public documents, Ashline skillfully unfolds the events in a compassionate, thoughtful voice. Readers interested in true crime and cults will be enthralled by this expertly rendered tale of extremism.-- (07/29/2019)
A fascinating, heartbreaking, and fraught page-turner. Ashline avoids easy judgments in favor of letting the story unfold and the evidence speak for itself. A powerful and absorbing contribution to the libraries of true crime, sociology and long-form journalism.-- (08/12/2019)