Excerpt from The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Truth of All Things

A Novel

by Kieran Shields

The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields X
The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 416 pages
    Feb 2013, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Dawson Oakes

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"Holy Mother of God!" The mayor drew a handkerchief and clapped it to his mouth.

"Not by a long shot," Lean said.

The mayor moved forward with halting steps. "Who is she?" "Maggie Keene," Lean said. "One of Jimmy Farrell's newer girls. Usually works North Street."

Mayor Ingraham tapped his cane on the ground. "Oh, just wait until news of this gets out. Blanchard and his temperance fanatics will drag me over the coals. A dead whore, some bloody killer roaming about - "

"And a watchman too drunk to notice anything." Lean saw the mayor grimace. The Maine Temperance Union had been firing broadsides against the mayor since the day he took office. Newspapers with Republican leanings routinely ran stories accusing him of failing to enforce the Maine Liquor Law that - on paper, anyway - had banned the sale, and nonmedicinal use, of alcohol since 1855. There were even allegations of payoffs by the larger Irish gangs that controlled much of the flow of booze into Portland.

"Why isn't Marshal Swett here anyway?" asked the mayor. "Prefers not to conduct business before breakfast," Lean said. "Takes a better photograph after a full night's sleep," Dr. Steig added.

Mayor Ingraham stared at them in disbelief, his jowls starting to quiver.

"I did speak with him on the telephone," Lean said with the unenthused voice of a man obeying dubious orders. "He wants the men to scour the docks and alleys, dredge up whatever drunks and vagrants they can. Find one with no memory of the last few hours, some blood on him, and that's our man." He took a deep drag on his cigarette.

"Apart from those few still on watch outside, I've got everyone out looking."

"Good," Mayor Ingraham said. "So we throw out the net and examine the haul."

"You think they'll find him?" Dr. Steig said.

"I don't know what to think about... whatever you call this."

"Someone killed a whore." The calm was returning to the mayor's face. "Someone in the grip of extreme passion. Wouldn't you agree?"

Lean shrugged. "It's more than just a guy getting rough; a beating 'cause the girl wouldn't give his coins back after he can't finish up his business. Or worse yet, the horse bolts the gate before the starter's pistol."

"All such pleasant imagery aside, I agree," said Dr. Steig. "This doesn't appear to be a blind rage or a drunken fit. The presentation of the body is all wrong."

Mayor Ingraham frowned at the opinion. "What, then? What sort of man would do such a thing?"

Lean could almost picture the images that must have been running through the mayor's mind. The editorial cartoons would show a caricatured, blurry-eyed Irish watchman and paint the mayor hoisting the whiskey jug for the ape-faced brute to drink from. Now the mayor's eyes lit up at the prospect of pinning this all on something other than demon rum and his failure to curb the flow of alcohol.

"We'll roust Farrell's joint," Lean said. "See if the other girls will talk. She's dressed rather fancy for the work; maybe her friends will know who she was getting so dudded up for."

"You don't sound hopeful," Dr. Steig said.

Lean crushed his cigarette beneath his heel. "Never seen anything quite so . . ." He failed to finish the thought before being interrupted by the sound of a carriage approaching.

"Now what?" the mayor said. "The photographer?"

"Can't be," Lean said. "I only sent for him twenty minutes ago."

Dr. Steig cleared his throat. "I know who it is. A thought occurred to me after I saw the body, and I telephoned for someone. Now, it's a rather unusual step I'm suggesting."

"Why not?" said the mayor, his voice leaden with disappointment. "Desperate times and all that rot."

"There's a man recently returned to Portland. The grandson of my old commander, Major Grey. The young man was a student in some of my anatomy classes. Would've made a great surgeon, actually - " "Cyrus Grey? Wait a minute - that scrawny red-Indian boy of his?" A look of puzzled doubt landed on the mayor's face.

Excerpted from The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields. Copyright © 2012 by Kieran Shields. Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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