Five years ago, while William Rees was still recovering from his stint as a Revolutionary War soldier, his beloved wife died. Devastated, Rees left his son, David, in his sister's 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 Rees's 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 Chastity's murder, Rees may well expose some of the Shaker community's 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 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America's 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. Only some anachronistic language jars." - Publishers Weekly
"Kuhns' focus on a closed community allows her to keep her story from drowning in period detail while emphasizing both the limitations and the charms of the Shakers' vanished world." - Kirkus Reviews
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Rated of 5
Marlys D. (Grand Rapids, MI)
A Simple Murder
I liked this book well enough, but did not think it was exceptional. I questioned whether the action & dialogue were appropriate to the time period. Also, the ending felt a bit too much like Nero Wolfe transported back in time. That said, it was an easy, enjoyable read.
Rated of 5
Carol P. (Mendham, NJ)
I was interested to read a Simple Murder due to the time period it took place -1796. I did find the mystery of the murder, the main character's sleuthing skills and the characters in the story interesting however I did not feel immersed in the time period. I was also disappointed in the ending which was very abrupt. I did not experience the resolution I expected to tie up all the characters in the story. I would recommend this book to young adults. The author did write a clever mystery. I would have loved to have the author bring more of this extraordinary time period after the Revolution into the story.
Rated of 5
Marie D. (Waretown, NJ)
Good, but left me wanting to know more
I was intrigued with the opportunity to learn more about the Shakers and more about life in 1796 America. While "A Simple Murder" did provide me a some insight into both, I found the pace a bit too slow moving. All the ingredients are there for a good read, but the character of Will Rees was off-putting. Lydia, on the other hand, was fascinating, a strong woman torn between two worlds and showing the capability of creating a life for herself in either. There are other characters in the book who are better delineated and more interesting than Mr. Rees.
Rated of 5
Judith P. (rosebud, missouri)
Mystery in a different time.
I loved this book as the mystery which drives the story is good but it is the Shaker backdrop and the time 1796 which make the character all the more interesting. One has to step out of our time and back into history ofpost revolution Maine. These characters could easily carry a series of books.
Rated of 5
Suzanne R. (Nashville, TN)
Murder among the Shakers
A Simple Murder is set in year 1796 in a Shaker settlement in Maine. The story begins with William Rees, an itinerant weaver who is frantically trying to find his teenage son who has run away to live among the Shakers. He has barely arrived when he finds himself first accused of murder and then working for the Shakers to solve the murder of one of their own. Ably assisted by Lydia Jane Ferrell and his son David, Rees uncovers many secrets and several more murders before resolving the case in true detective fashion. It is an engaging read.
Rated of 5
Chris W. (Temple City, CA)
Shaker murder mystery
An easy to read murder mystery set in a community of Shakers in the late 1700s. A traveling weaver arrives at this community looking for his son and is later asked to help solve a murder. I learned a lot about the Shaker lifestyle and was actually surprised by some of that information. The characters were interesting and well developed. The author did a good job of making the story believable and connecting the various story lines. I think this would be a good book for a book club partially because of the different lifestyles and historical information. This is a fun and fast read. I look forward to the next installment.
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 master's 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.
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