Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

A Simple Murder by Eleanor Kuhns

Debut novelist Eleanor Kuhns weaves a tale about a traveling weaver, a factor, who also solves crimes in her novel, A Simple Murder. It’s always fun to discover a new author and Kuhns has done a great job with her first novel which won the First Crime Novel Award from the Mystery Writers of America and Minotaur Books.

It’s 1796 and Will Rees, the traveling weaver, has come home to Maine to check on the well being of his 14-year-old son. Following the death of his wife in childbirth, Rees had left his son David in the care of his sister and her husband on Will’s farm. However, when Rees arrives home he discovers his son has run away and is believed to be living in a Shaker Community near Durham, Maine. Will immediately sets off for the Shaker community and arrives to find the normally quiet community in turmoil because of the murder of a young Shaker woman.

Will receives a tepid welcome from the Shakers but nevertheless is allowed to stay. Upon learning that Will has successfully solved crimes in the past, the Elder asks him to stay and attempt to solve the murder. While the title is A Simple Murder, there is nothing simple about this death and Will has his work cut out for him. For one thing, he has to determine whether the crime was committed by a Shaker member or by a townsperson. When the remains of a Shaker community member who has been missing for two years are found, it further complicates the case. Rees has to determine if the crimes are connected.

Relations between the Shakers and the townspeople are not always congenial and Will must walk a fine line between both groups as he works to solve the crime. The sheriff appears to welcome Will’s help but the deputy and other townspeople are not so welcoming. After being shot at several times, Will knows he must soon solve the crime or end up being a victim himself. As he detects, he attempts to repair his relationship with his teenage son who feels he had been abandoned by his father.

I love historical mysteries as I always learn something new in the process of reading them. I had never read anything about the Shakers and found this subject particularly entertaining. Not a lot of mysteries take place in this time period and it was fun to read a novel set in the early years of our country.

As a librarian, Kuhns obviously knows books. After reading this novel, I’d say she has what it takes to spin a great mystery yarn. I look forward to more novels from her.


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