The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields

From Goodreads: Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, in the summer of 1892, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning….

When newly appointed Deputy Marshal Archie Lean is called in to investigate a prostitute’s murder in Portland, Maine, he’s surprised to find the body laid out like a pentagram and pinned to the earth with a pitchfork.  He’s even more surprised to learn that this death by “sticking” is a traditional method of killing a witch

Baffled by the ritualized murder scene, Lean secretly enlists the help of historian Helen Prescott and brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey.  Distrusted by officials because of his mixed Abenaki Indian ancestry, Grey is even more notorious for combining modern investigative techniques with an almost eerie perceptiveness.  Although skeptical of each other’s methods, together the detectives pursue the killer’s trail through postmortems and opium dens, into the spiritualist societies and lunatic asylums of gothic New England.

Before the killer closes in on his final victim, Lean and Grey must decipher the secret pattern to these murders–a pattern hidden within the dark history of the Salem witch trials.


The Truth of All Things is an outstanding (pick your adjective: stellar, fantastic, wonderful – they all fit) debut novel by Kieran Shields. In 2012, it was one of the books I enjoyed most. The novel combines several of my favorite things: Maine, history, mystery, fantastic lead characters, and librarians.

Set two hundred years after the Salem witch trials in the bustling port town of Portland, Maine, a ritualized murder is discovered. Deputy Marshal Archie Lean is assigned to the case, but as he is stumped, coroner Dr. Steig calls in friend and former Pinkerton detective Perceval Grey. Together, with librarian Helen Prescott, the two investigate the crimes, discovering that they may extend much further than just one woman.

From temperance to secret societies to opium dens, The Truth of All Things is an incredibly well-researched detective novel. The characters are multi-dimensional, the mystery is pleasantly gothic and convoluted, and the story’s historically rich. In Perceval Grey, Kieran Shields has created a wonderful tribute to Sherlock Holmes. And as a former Portland, Maine resident, it is gratifying to see historical Portland brought to life on the page.

I would recommend The Truth of All Things to anyone who enjoys intelligent historical fiction. The story starts off a bit slow, but the last third will have you on the edge of your seat (or in my case, reading well into the night). It is always a good sign when I wish I knew the characters in real life. Perceval Grey, Archie Lean, and Helen Prescott would make a witty, fascinating group of friends. I’d highly recommend this eerie, historical gem, 5/5. I can’t wait to read A Study in Revenge, out January 8, 2013 (a side note: these novels have great titles).

Blueberry-Pie-deep-dish-bumbleberry-pie-xl-deThis is not heavily food oriented fiction, however Grey does order blueberry pie (even if he does not eat it). So to go with The Truth of All Things, I am recommending a similar, but more delicious Bumbleberry Pie.

Goodreads/Country Living

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