Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, characters, and sense of time
Cons: Pacing did seem off; hard to remember character relationships
The Bottom Line:
Will finds murder in
A Shaker community
Simple Time but Complex Murder
I say I enjoyed historical mysteries, but I don’t read that many of them. So when the Will Rees mysteries series crossed my radar, I was immediately intrigued. Will is a traveling weaver in 1795 Maine. I picked up the first book, A Simple Murder, and prepared to get lost in the past.
It’s been several years since Will’s wife died. Always a wanderer at heart, Will set out as a traveling weaver, leaving his son and his farm in Maine with his sister and her husband. He’s returned home occasionally over the years, but on his most recent visit, he discovers that his son has fled and joined a sect of Shakers who live over a day’s journey away. Upset, Will rushes down to talk to his son, David, and hopefully make amends.
His reunion with David doesn’t go well. He’s trying to figure out how he can go about rebuilding their relationship when word reaches him that one of the women in the Shaker community has been murdered. Will has found himself stepping in to solve a few crimes over the course of his travels, and it is actual David who suggests to the elders that Will might be able to help figure out what happened. Can Will overcome his status as an outsider to gather the clues he needs to solve the case?
I must admit, I know very little about the Shakers, so this was an eye-opening book in that regard. Will spends quite a bit of time in the Shaker community, so we get to learn about this sect. It’s made me curious enough to want to learn more about their beliefs and how they live.
I’m torn on the mystery. There are plenty of suspects and twists and turns. But at the same time, the pace seemed slow. I suspect that was a result of the historical setting. When Will had to travel to talk to someone, it would take up most of the day. As a result, he could only talk to a few people each day, and the time slipped away. I suspect that crept into my mind as I was reading and it felt like we weren’t making any progress when in reality we were.
The characters were certainly strong. I loved watching Will’s growth as well as his relationships with several characters grow. I really fell in love with these characters and I want to see them happy.
As the book progressed, Will uncovered quite a few family connections, and I had trouble keeping all of those straight. While putting a list of characters or a family tree in the book would certainly help, it would have also constituted spoilers for the story. I was still able to follow the story, but this might have also helped me feel like the plot wasn’t as strong as it could be. And none of this is to say the suspects weren’t strong. I could easily remember who all of them were, I just could remember as easily how they were all connected to each other.
Author Eleanor Kuhns did a good job of bring life to 1795 for us. There are only marginal references to real history, but it was in the everyday details of life that I felt like I was back in time.