Book Review: The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields

Title: The Truth of All Things
Author: Kieran Sheilds
Genre: Historical/Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Date Read: 06/06/2014 – 11/06/2014
Rating: ★★★★


I came across this book while searching out books truthofallthingscoverset during the Salem Witch Trials. This one is set 200 years later, and while it sounded interesting, I didn’t click the “Reserve a copy” button on my library’s online catalogue at first. I’m really glad I changed my mind, though, as I ended up really loving it!

Deputy Marshall Archie Lean is called to a grisly murder scene in which a young woman has been laid out in a pentagram with a pitchfork through her throat, a traditional method for killing a “witch”. As his investigation continues, he enlists the help of criminologist, Perceval Grey, and historian, Helen Prescott, the niece of medical examiner, Doctor Stieg. It soon becomes clear that this murder is not an isolated incident, and that several young women around Massachusetts and Maine have been killed by a man with a seeming fixation on the Salem Witch Trials.

Archie Lean is a fun protagonist; he quotes poetry and in his downtime, worries whether he’s going to be able to keep the position of Deputy in the future and buy a house for him, his wife and their two children [well, one child; second is on the way]. The character of Perceval Grey runs the risk of being accused of being a Sherlock Holmes clone, but what I found most interesting about him was his half-Abenaki heritage, and how this affected his relationships with the other characters. As the murder scene is constructed in such a way to make it look like the murder was an Indian, Grey is viewed with suspicion from Lean and the other investigators, even after he assures them he has not lived amongst his father’s people since the age of seven and they have nothing to “worry” about. Lean and Grey do warm to each other, though, and there is a lot of fun banter between them. Banter is my favourite thing.

Helen Prescott, unfortunately, was something of a plot device, and I wish we had been able to learn a bit more about her. She basically served as the expert on the Salem Witch Trials, filling in details the others weren’t aware of, as well as being a love interest for Grey (I’ve started the second book now,  which is set a year later. She’s all but disappeared, but there’s a new female character who Grey finds “arresting”).

The plot is quick-paced, and I did sometimes have trouble keeping up with all the characters who played a part in the sequence of events that led up to the murders. There was one point where I was worried that the resolution was going to be rather unsatisfying after such a promising lead-up, but I realised soon after that if the murderer has been caught and there are still 60 pages to go, they probably haven’t actually caught the murderer. 😉

I really enjoyed the setting (period murder mysteries are just so much more fun than contemporary ones) though for something set in America, it did feel very Victorian. I mean, I really don’t know how much of a difference there would really be, but that did surprise me a little.

As I said above, I’m already onto the sequel, “A Study in Revenge” and so far it is promising to be good fun, too (though I was looking ahead to see how many pages it has and accidentally read the last few lines and I think we have a cliffhanger on our hands!). Kieran Shields is definitely an author to keep an eye on!


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