The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields
Published by Crown, an imprint of Random House
It is 1892, and a prostitute has been found murdered in Portland, Maine. This is no ordinary murder, however. The woman is laid out in a pentagram with a pitchfork through her neck – a method of killing sometimes used to make sure a witch is truly dead. This sort of sensational murder is not good for a town, so the mayor puts Deputy Marshal Archie Lean in charge of the investigation. Lean can’t do this job alone, though, it takes criminologist Percival Grey and eventually local historian Helen Prescott to help him begin to unravel the mystery behind this and other killings. The are an unlikely bunch, what with Helen’s gender and Grey’s half-Indian heritage – a real liability in late 19th-century Portland, especially as the murderer left a message in the Abenaki language next to the body.
The Truth of All Things gets off to a very strong start, beginning right away with the gruesome murder and the quick introduction of the fascinating Sherlock-esque Percival Grey. Grey comes in and begins making deductions and seeing things that others would miss. Before long, Grey and Lean strike up a antagonistic yet friendly working relationship that has a good chemistry and would bode well for a partnership that could go beyond this one novel.
However, despite the compelling beginning and an interesting twist relating these murders to the Salem witch trials two hundred years earlier, The Truth of All Things eventually begins to falter. Shields sets up the plot with some sense of urgency, but it simply doesn’t come across in a way that compels the reader to keep turning the pages. There was never a question of not finishing it, but the pace definitely slowed in the second half of the novel.
As it is a first novel, I do think that The Truth of All Things is strong enough that I would read Shields’s future work, but it isn’t one I would recommend running out and buying immediately.
Source: Publisher, via Edelweiss.
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