My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s always a pleasure when an author produces a seamless blend of two favorite genres, as debut novelist Kieran Shields has done in The Truth of All Things. Set in Portland, Maine during the 1890’s, the book opens with the grisly, ritualistic murder of a young prostitute. Deputy Marshal Archie Lean catches the case, and the coroner has called in a specialist in interpreting evidence, one Percival Grey. The duo must carve out an efficient working relationship, and as that happens, they begin to note ties to the victims of the Salem witch trials. More murders ensue, and Lean and Grey frantically, though methodically, track down the killer, who leads them through enough twists and turns that the denouement is difficult to foresee.
What quickly comes to mind while reading Truth is the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Lestrade, though Lean is a better detective than Lestrade. Grey, however, might have read the Holmes canon, as he shares many of the same professional traits, including his reticence, his brilliance, and his penchant for donning masterly disguises. This would be annoying if Shields had handled it poorly, but it’s a pleasure to note the similarities while getting to know Grey as his own character. A third character, single mother and librarian Helen Prescott, plays an important role in helping to pinpoint the motive behind the mayhem. Period detail abounds, in which the temperance movement and racial prejudice (Grey is one half Abenaki) loom large.
The Truth of All Things is an outstanding novel, even if it is Shields’s first. Here’s hoping there will be many more to come.