Reviews for Simple Murder

Kirkus Reviews 2012 May #1
The winner of the 2011 MWA/Minotaur First Crime Novel Competition takes an itinerant weaver searching for his son to an unexpectedly tangled mystery inside a Shaker community in 1796 Maine. Returning to his home, Dugard Pond Farm, after a long absence, William Rees is dismayed to learn that 14-year-old David, the son Will's sister Caroline and her husband Samuel Prentiss agreed to take in when Will left the farm in their care to ply his weaving trade on the road, has run away with nary a peep from them. Will swiftly tracks the boy to Zion, a Shaker enclave outside Durham, and even more quickly establishes that David considers himself abandoned by his father and has no desire to leave with him. But his brief visit with Zion leader Elder White means that he's available to get detained on suspicion of murder by Sheriff Coulton when Sister Chastity, formerly Catherine Parker, is bashed to death, then invited at David's suggestion to investigate her death after farm couple Henry and Jane Doucette vouch for his alibi. Everyone at Zion assumes that none of their Family could have broken the peace so wantonly, but Will's not so sure. Chaperoned by Lydia Jane Farrell, who's continued to live in Zion even after being expelled from the Family, he questions the Sisters and Brothers. He and his delightfully independent-minded Watson discover that Sister Chastity's death is anything but simple; instead, it's the latest instance of a pattern of violence that reaches back two years--a pattern that's still not complete. 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. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 May #1

Will Rees, a Revolutionary War veteran, fled his sorrow over his wife's death by becoming a traveling weaver. Leaving his son David in the care of his sister's family while they ran his farm seemed like a reasonable arrangement, but he learns that David has run away and joined a Shaker community in Maine. Will heads there in hopes of reconnecting with his adolescent son. The Shakers let him stay, mostly because a shocking murder has just shaken the community and they need his help investigating it. Lydia, a former member, agrees to chaperone him and soon becomes his investigative partner. Will, Lydia, and David finally discern a pattern in the puzzling disappearances of people and horses. When the musket balls start flying, Will knows his instincts are correct. VERDICT Librarian Kuhns's closed-room mystery is refreshingly original, both for its setting and time period. In keeping with her protagonist's profession, Kuhns weaves together disparate threads into a beautiful finished piece. She's this year's winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel competition. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/12; see also Q&A with Kuhns on p.70--Ed.]

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Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
Color me prejudiced, but I judge books by their covers all day long. Immediate deal breakers are flowers, predominant pink, and any of these words in the title: Tuscan, Sea, Lost, and/or Lincoln. So how the hell did Kuhns's debut historical mystery, replete with a bonnet on the cover, manage to snare me? Set in 1796, Kuhns's book focuses on a weaver named William Rees, who's a widower and a veteran. He's really just out to reconnect with his son when he's tapped to investigate a murder in a community of Shakers in Maine. And by "Shakers" I don't mean the [insert your alma mater here] rugby squad come Sunday morning but the religious communes marked by celibacy and silence. Apparently not all Shaker chicks are sweetness and light, especially Sister Chastity as she‘s the one who got offed. The community assigns Rees a helper, a former sister named Lydia Jane; sparks fly--1796 sparks and not something out of one of Rollie Welch's column titles. The simple plot offers little in the way of fancy twists or turns, so mostly this is carried by Kuhns's gift for clear writing with a just-right amount of historical detail (e.g., there were no cars then. No fridges, either), which were fine enough to win her the 2011 "first crime novel competition" of the Mystery Writers of America. Verdict The act of murder doesn't get much simpler than a rock to the head, and if you've ever been tempted by historical fiction, Kuhns delivers a nice 'n' easy entrée. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 March #2

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. When widowed weaver Will Rees returns home to Maine from a long trip, he learns that his 13-year-old son, David, whom he left in the care of relatives, has run away. Hearing that a local Shaker community has taken David in, Rees goes there in search of his son. In order to stay near David and work on their strained relationship, Rees, who gained a reputation for crime solving while serving in the Continental Army, agrees to look into the murder of an attractive young woman, Sister Chastity, and later the disappearance of two male Shakers years before. Rees forms an appealing bond with sleuthing sidekick Lydia Jane Farrell, a former Shaker living near the settlement. Their unresolved relationship will fuel reader hopes for a sequel. Only some anachronistic language jars. (May)

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