The Truth of All Things


In Portland, Maine in 1892, detective Archie Lean investigates the brutal murder of a prostitute. The woman is laid out like a pentagram and pinned to the earth with a pitchfork — the traditional method for killing a witch. Criminologist Perceval Grey is brought in to assist. Grey is distrusted by the officials because of his half-Abenaki ancestry, but the killer left a strange message in that language. Grey and Lean, along with historian Helen Prescott, follow the clues that lead them to previous murders, Portland’s 17th-century past, and a definite tie to the notorious Salem witch trials. Soon all their lives are threatened as a demented killer roams New England out for revenge using the deadly rituals of a witch’s Black Book.

This novel is intricately plotted with numerous twists. Grey especially is a compelling character as he uses modern investigative techniques and clever perception to ferret out the truth. His painful past is woven into the story through their probing into the Abenaki Indian connection. The author’s knowledge of 19th-century Portland is remarkable, putting you right into the city. I found it strange that one of the killer’s accomplices is never identified — and no one is curious about this person — though they play an important part near the end.

The killer’s bragging confession to a tied-up Grey borders on cliché, but it’s still gripping. Kieran Shields’s debut novel is a fascinating addition to the historical mystery genre.

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