Weaver Will Rees copes with family woes while investigating the murder of his childhood friend Nate Bowditch.
Life may have been simpler in 18th-century Maine, as citizens of the newly minted republic sought to make their way in the still largely undeveloped United States. But families are always complicated. Will, a longtime widower, aches to be close to his teenage son David. But his relationship with Lydia, a refugee from a Shaker settlement, disrupts his path. His feelings toward his late wife Dolly still unresolved, he refuses to make Lydia his bride, choosing instead to hire her as his housekeeper. An urgent message from Molly Bowditch upsets Rees’ life further. Her husband, Nate, whose passion for dyes matched Will’s obsession with cloth, has been bludgeoned to death with a scutching knife. Local constable Caldwell suspects Nate’s son Richard, though Augustus, the illegitimate son Nate’s serving maid, Rachel, bore him, seems an equally likely candidate. Molly hires Will to clear Richard’s name. But the more Will probes Molly’s odd relationship with the local medic, Dr. Wrothman, and Richard’s attachment to Elizabeth, daughter of land baron James Carleton, the murkier matters appear. Add a pair of slave catchers, a fire at Caldwell’s jail and a cache of love letters in Nate’s trunk, and this tale of simple country life turns into anything but.
Kuhns’ follow-up to Will’s debut (A Simple Murder, 2012) offers a sensitive look into matters of the heart woven into a nifty puzzle.