Book Review: A Simple Murder

Set around Durham, Maine in 1776, former solder Will Rees returns home to discover his fourteen-year-old son David has run away to the Shaker community of Zion. Working as a traveling weaver, Will left David and the farm in the care of his sister and husband who proceeded to abuse his trust. When Will arrives at Zion, he must accept the Shakers restrictions and realizes David is embittered about his abandonment. After spending the night in a friendly farmer’s barn, Will is arrested for the murder of Chastity, a young Shaker woman. Cleared of wrongdoing, the Shaker community requests Will’s assistance in the murder investigation after David let it be known that his father had some experience in such matters. As Will begins questioning the Shakers and non-Shakers with quick-witted Lydia Jane acting as chaperon, he discovers a long running web of secrets, deceit and horse thieving that will threaten Zion and neighboring families alike.

While delivering a sweetly told mystery, Kuhns’ does a nice job of recreating the feel of Shaker life and close-knit New England farming communities. Descriptions of everyday activities, weaving and farming activities add an authentic flavor to this evenly paced tale. The personal conflicts Will faces are something every parent can sympathize with has he struggles to provide for his son. Sparks fly between Will and Lydia and while there is romantic tension between them, there are plenty of obstacles. Readers will enjoy watching Will untangle all the lies and lay bear the truth in the satisfying climax. Let us hope for more from this promising new mystery author and the charming hero she’s created.  

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