Publication Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Random House Inc.
Genre: Historical Mystery
Pages: Hardcover, 416pp
(Received for an honest review from Crown)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Kieran Shields on the WEB: website, facebook
Excerpt from The Truth of All Things
Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, in the summer of 1892, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning…
When newly appointed Deputy Marshal Archie Lean is called in to investigate a prostitute’s murder in Portland, Maine, he’s surprised to find the body laid out like a pentagram and pinned to the earth with a pitchfork. He’s even more surprised to learn that this death by “sticking” is a traditional method of killing a witch.
Baffled by the ritualized murder scene, Lean secretly enlists the help of historian Helen Prescott and brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey. Distrusted by officials because of his mixed Abenaki Indian ancestry, Grey is even more notorious for combining modern investigative techniques with an almost eerie perceptiveness. Although skeptical of each other’s methods, together the detectives pursue the killer’s trail through postmortems and opium dens, into the spiritualist societies and lunatic asylums of gothic New England.
Kieran Shields' debut novel, The Truth of All Things is a great combination of historical detail and investigative mystery. It will appeal to readers from both genres and draw in some mainstream thriller fans as well. Shields has a knack for setting the scene, he is able to evoke the mind and the senses with his descriptions. His ability to create characters that are both entertaining and easy to identify with is also a great selling point for this novel. A great first effort and a wonderful blending of two genres.
Many of you know that I generally give the debut novel of any author a bit of grace. This is usually necessary because the first book tends to be a little tedious and more painstakingly written than later works. It tends to be too lengthy or the characterizations are not strong enough. But no grace was needed with The Truth of All Things. Shields does a fantastic job of blending two genres and giving readers a plot that was riveting and had few problems.
Being a former history major, I like novels that take historical details or references and bring them to life or more fully explain them. By using the Salem Witch Trials as the background for his novel, Kieran Shields ran the risk that his book would be considered by some to be an offshoot of the paranormal craze in publishing these days. But by developing his characters well and setting the scene so fully, readers are able to see the difference. This is what I would call a historical mystery. Shields has obviously done his homework. His historical references are accurate and detailed. The mystery aspect of the story is also well thought out and executed.
If I had one criticism to offer it is that there were sections of the book that dragged to some extent. There was just too much detail. I think it's possible to offer too much information. It's sometimes wise to let the reader assume a few things or show how they happened instead of "telling" the reader what happened. That's not to say I didn't like the book. I thought it was well written and parts of it was as riveting as any book I have read this year. But I like to have to think about things a little bit when I read. I don't want everything spelled out for me.
The characters were very human in the way they reacted to each situation placed in front of them. You have Archie who is a young detective, who happens to get a case that is completely out of his league. Instead of trying to muddle through and making a mess of it, he enlists the help of some talented and inquisitive helpers. He is young, he has a wife and soon to be family. He was a great character to read about. He faced some of the same things everyone else does, that allows him to resonate with readers. Shields seemed to understand what was necessary to get the reader behind the characters. They have to become invested to make it worth their while to read it. Shields did a great job with this.
The plot centers around the 1892 murder of Mary Keene, a prostitute in Portland, Maine. When Mary's body was found it was staked out in a pentagram, in ritualistic fashion. It was a common practice during the time of the Salem Witch Trials. I thought the author did a great job of letting the reader know the historical significance of the crime and how it tied to the killer. This was not a fast paced novel but it was through and completely satisfying. The conclusion wasn't one the reader could predict and Shields only let the reader find out what he wanted, when he wanted. A great first effort!
The Truth of All Things is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Kieran Shields grew up in Portland, Maine. He graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Maine School of Law. He continues to reside along the coast of Maine with his wife and two children. His first novel, "The Truth of All Things," is arriving in March 2012. He is currently at work on the further adventures of Perceval Grey and Archie Lean.
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