In the 1790s, a New England weaver tries to solve a murder made to look like his handiwork.
Will Rees is always eager to see something new outside the boundaries of Dugard, in the District of Maine. Ever since he helped solve a murder in Massachusetts on his last trip away, he’s been having a hard time settling down to farming. Instead of the tedium of milking and haying, he’d rather work at his loom while he and Lydia, his wife, await the birth of their first child. His sister Caroline wants to move her family in with Rees, though the farmhouse is already crowded with Rees and Lydia’s five adopted children. Her whining demands are hard to withstand, since Rees’ hot temper is partly to blame for the accident that disabled Caroline’s husband and caused her financial distress. Even worse is the town constable’s news that a man with whom Rees had a public fight about politics now lies dead on a rocky hilltop. Although the constable is Rees’ friend, believes him innocent, and wants his help in finding the real killer, a second and even more brutal murder implicates Lydia as well. She was a practicing Shaker who gave up her religion when she married Rees, but the ignorant and superstitious among the townspeople believe whispers that Lydia is a witch. Shocked when he learns who started the rumors and slow to accept how much some of his childhood companions have come to dislike and resent him, Rees must awaken to a painful reality as acts of vandalism threaten to turn into something uglier. An angry mob demanding Lydia’s arrest forces him to take drastic measures for his family’s safety, and when suspicion falls on him for more than one murder, he learns who his real friends are.
Kuhns’ fifth dispatch from the early days of a new nation, faster paced than the last installment (Death in Salem, 2015), builds mounting sympathy for its beleaguered leading couple.