Jennifer F. (Saratoga, CA)
Intriguing mystery with unsatisfying ending
A Simple Murder was a unique book in that it was set within a Shaker community in the early 1800s. The characters were believable and interesting and the plot was compelling, but I felt the author lost ground with an ending that didn't live up to the rest of the book.
Karen M. (Great Falls, VA)
What an engrossing read!
Eleanor Kuhns sent a letter with the Advanced Readers’ Copy of A Simple Life that introduced us not only to the author as a person, but to her life as a professional librarian with her passion for books. She recalls her childhood of disappearing into books so well-written and engaging that she’d live for hours in the world the author had created. She wanted to bring that experience to readers in this debut novel, and she absolutely succeeded. Like Alice, I fell down through the rabbit hole and into another world in 1796. After one chapter, I canceled all plans for the day and night, and told my family to feed themselves. I did not want to return from this world of her investigator, William Rees, and the Shaker settlement near Durham, Maine. I knew absolutely nothing about life in 18th century Maine that was not purely focused on the American Revolution. And I had only a weak basic knowledge about the Shaker religion. The pacing is quick, Kuhn’s style is taut, and her choice of wording is perfect for such an engaging “who done it.”I could imagine Ms. Kuhns after she returns from work settling into a night of writing, meticulously reviewing each sentence and word choice and rewriting it until it was perfect. I appreciate that she writes in a direct linear style. Not a lot of passive voice. Her research translates into an authentic sense of being right next to her characters during their time. I truly appreciate that she did not pursue a distracting romance to fuddle up the mystery. This is too good a book to have a lot of bodice- ripping going on. She avoids any salaciousness but still involves the reader in the heartbreak of the lives lost. There is violence but she doesn’t stop the narrative so she can describe every gush and gurgle. Men will love this book. It is written in a masculine style – my preference in a historical mystery. All of the characters are fully developed and captivating. Women will love this book-- the male investigator is heroic yet haunted, and the women are strong and intelligent. Banter usually found in 1940’s classic movies is well-suited to the story. I was absolutely captivated and enchanted by this novel and I cannot say that about the last 50 books that I’ve read this year. I can hardly wait to see where Ms. Kuhns takes us next.
Prella M. (Lafayette, IN)
Murder or Murders??
Ms. Kuhns spins her tale gradually as she reels in the reader. She combines a murder in a Shaker community with life in 1796. As a lover of mysteries and history this book appealed to me. I confess it about 50 pages to truly interest me but for the last 75 I could not put it down. It would make a good beach read this summer.
Pam L. (Indialantic, FL)
A Simple Murder
Just a good old fashioned murder mystery. It kept my interest throughout. Loved that it took place in 1796 among the Shakers. I want ot know what will be Will Reese's next mystery to solve and where that will take place. Bravo, Eleanor Kuhns.
Janet P. (Spokane, WA)
A mysterious trip to another era
The two days I spent reading A Simple Murder by Eleanor Kuhns brought me racing back to the book anytime I had a chance. I'm a former high school English teacher and a lover of just about any genre, but my pet peeve is a mystery book that ends with the committer of the crime being an unknown so-and-so of whom the reader hears of for the first time when the brave hero solves the mystery. I detest being "hooked" for 300 pages only to be greatly upset by a simplistic ending.
This was certainly not the case with Ms. Kuhn's novel. I was truly "hooked" from about the 5th page even before I became aware that there was a mystery to solve. The protagonist, who traveled as a weaver and amateur sleuth during the 17th century in New England, along with all the other characters he meets, are believable and fascinating. I truly enjoyed every page of this book and was reminded of my positive reaction to the last mystery I read about two months ago entitled Mistress of Death. In both books the amateur detectives, who eventually solves some very complicated mysterious deaths, live in times of the past. Both protagonists must rely on observation, experience, gut response and an understanding of the human body, because modern forensic techniques would be of help only for detectives of the future.
In A Simple Murder, William Rees, our protagonist, is an "outsider" living in a "Shaker" community, a world very closed to outsiders. His son, whom he has abandoned, previously joined this community, so intriguing side-stories develop around this relationship as well as others. The characters are strong and believable and I became entranced with the colorful history of the Shakers included in this text. The plot truly thickens and I begin to mistrust numerous characters, thus, I absolutely couldn't put the book down. I now find myself unable to get the novel out of my husband's hands. I told him he'd enjoy it, but when I asked if I could borrow it to write this review, he responded, "well, I'm really into this book...I'd rather not put it down."
Rosemary T. (San Antonio, TX)
A Simple Murder
An unusual "who done it" which occurs in an unlikely setting. Although the storyline did hold my interest, I had some trouble keeping all the characters straight and felt that some of the key players could have been developed better. The ending left me wondering if the author plans a sequel.
Brenda S. (Grand Rapids, MN)
A Fun Read
Eleanor Kuhns did enough research to make this historical thriller believable and fun to read. The subplots worked well together and kept the story flowing...it was easy to read several chapters without pause. The only criticism was giving some of the secondary characters more than one name. However, the mystery was so intense, I had to cheat and read the ending...well worth knowing as a person completes the book. I loved it!