Book Review: A Twisted Faith by Gregg Olsen
A Twisted Faith by Gregg Olsen is a great true-crime book which also provides a wonderful look inside an American subculture that we all know exists, but seldom get to explore. I got the book in preparation to interview Gregg on Dragonpage Cover to Cover podcast. A Twisted Faith delves into the story of Nick Hacheney, the youth minister for the Christ Community Church on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Though a chubby and less-than-dynamic man, Nick managed to seduce at least four women in the Church—including his mother-in-law—and elude police for years. And why were the cops interested in him?
To pursue his multiple conquests, Nick murdered his wife in the wee hours of December 26, 1997. He smothered her, then set a fire in the house, while he went hunting with friends to create an alibi. Lest you think he was totally heartless, I would note that he made sure neither of the family dogs were inside when the house went up.
From that point forward Nick Hacheney used sympathy and the womens’ steadfast belief in God and prophecy to seduce them and escape justice. It wasn’t until one brave woman, who had removed herself from Bainbridge Island in an attempt to salvage her marriage, admitted what had happened to her, breaking a dam of silence.
It would be very easy to suggest that this was a crime of clergy against believers because, in fact, it was. But to suggest that religion and a small, tightly-knit church community is the only place such a thing could happen is nonsense. Gregg Olsen, as a result of exhaustive interviews, is able to paint a vivid portrait of Nick as a sociopath who used a variety of techniques to worm his way into womens’ sympathies and lives. While their original connection was born of religion—and Nick used it to reinforce behaviors—his techniques could have been dressed up in many different ways for different venues, and would have been just as successful.
The book also delves into the world of Christ Community Church. The community was blessed by a number of people who would get a “Word from God”—a prophecy which would circulate through the congregation and be accepted as completely true. Quoting from page 15: “Whatever the message, it was heeded as if the Almightly had sent a telegram.” The church’s internal politics and tensions are also brilliantly explained as ambition and devotion collide. Even without the murder and seduction, the church’s story would have been fascinating.
The book is just a great read and kept me up nights. I cannot recommend the book highly enough, or the interview which, I believe, goes live on 12 April.