Synopses & Reviews
The murder of a young Shaker woman in 1796 Maine draws traveling weaver and former soldier Will Rees into a suspicious community to investigate It is 1796. For several years Will Rees, a traveling weaver and
former soldier, too bereaved from the death of his wife to be a
proper father, has left his son in the care of his sister. Visiting
unexpectedly, he discovers his son has been treated like a serf
and has run away. Rees tracks him to a Shaker settlement near
Durham, Maine, where David is angry at his father and protected
by the community. While waiting for a chance at reconciliation,
Rees decides to ply his trade. After spending the first night in a
farmers barn he rides into town and is arrested for the murder of
a young Shaker woman. After the farmer provides Rees with an alibi and he is released,
Elder White, a Shaker leader wary of the sheriff, asks Rees to
investigate the murder. Rees accepts the commission that will
keep him close to his son, but as Rees learns the ways of the
community he discovers that solving Sister Chastitys murder will
uncover some members darkest secrets. An atmospheric and authentic portrait of a compelling time in
American history, A Simple Murder is an outstanding debut from
MB/MWAs 2011 First Crime Novel Competition Winner.
"Set in 1795, Kuhns's quiet, well-crafted debut, the winner of the MWA/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel competition, poignantly captures the Shaker ethos of the period. When widowed weaver Will Rees returns home to Maine from a long trip, he learns that his 13-year-old son, David, whom he left in the care of relatives, has run away. Hearing that a local Shaker community has taken David in, Rees goes there in search of his son. In order to stay near David and work on their strained relationship, Rees, who gained a reputation for crime solving while serving in the Continental Army, agrees to look into the murder of an attractive young woman, Sister Chastity, and later the disappearance of two male Shakers years before. Rees forms an appealing bond with sleuthing sidekick Lydia Jane Farrell, a former Shaker living near the settlement. Their unresolved relationship will fuel reader hopes for a sequel. Only some anachronistic language jars." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A Simple Murder works as an intense historical but also a heartfelt story about families, especially the bonds between fathers and sons, and the grievances that can pull relatives apart. . .Kuhns' affinity for showing the complicated relationships that drive people shines in this strong debut.”
—Oline Cogdill, Kansas City Star
“Kuhns intimate voice and all-seeing eye make [the Shaker community] seem an exotic world indeed. But she also shows that greed, envy and materialistic values are nothing if not universal."
—Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
"Kuhns's closed-room mystery is refreshingly original, both for its setting and time period. In keeping with her protagonist's profession, Kuhns weaves together disparate threads into a beautiful finished piece."
—Library Journal (starred review, Debut of the Month)
“This outstanding debut won the 2011 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition, and its as good an argument for continuing these contests as it gets. Kuhns, a career librarian, delivers a superbly researched and beautifully crafted historical mystery.”
—Toronto Globe & Mail
“Kuhnss quiet, well-crafted debut. . .poignantly captures the Shaker ethos of the period.”
“A gripping historical mystery. . . With an ingenious story line (including a truly surprising conclusion), fascinating characters and a profound sense of time, place and culture, A Simple Murder marks a debut brimming with promise.”
Five years ago, while William Rees was still recovering from his stint as a Revolutionary War soldier, his beloved wife died. Devastated, Will Rees left his son, David, in his sisters care, fled his Maine farm, and struck out for a tough but emotionally empty life as a traveling weaver. Now, upon returning unexpectedly to his farm, Rees discovers that David has been treated like a serf for years and finally ran away to join a secluded religious sect—the Shakers.
Overwhelmed by guilt and hoping to reconcile with his son, Rees immediately follows David to the Shaker community. But when a young Shaker woman is brutally murdered shortly after Reess arrival, Rees finds himself launched into a complicated investigation where the bodies keep multiplying, a tangled web of family connections casts suspicion on everyone, and the beautiful woman on the edge of the Shaker community might be hiding troubling ties to the victims. It quickly becomes clear that in solving Sister Chastitys murder, Rees may well expose some of the Shaker communitys darkest secrets, not to mention endanger his own life.
An atmospheric portrait of a compelling time in American history, A Simple Murder is an outstanding debut from Eleanor Kuhns, Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of Americas 2011 First Crime Novel Competition Winner.
About the Author
ELEANOR KUHNS is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition. She lives in New York, received her masters in Library Science from Columbia University, and is currently the Assistant Director at the Goshen Public Library in Orange County, New York. This is her first novel.