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Originally published Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 5:00 AM

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Book review

'The Truth of All Things': a wicked string of murders in Maine

Kieran Shields' "The Truth of All Things" is a pitch-perfect first novel about a series of Maine murders with links to the Salem witch trials.

The Associated Press

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'The Truth of All Things'

by Kieran Shields

Crown, 416 pp., $25

Kieran Shields creates a pitch-perfect atmosphere in "The Truth of All Things," a tale set in Portland, Maine, during the summer of 1892.

Two hundred years earlier in Salem, Mass., the Salem witch trials brought about a period of paranoia and insecurity. Deputy Marshal Archie Lean's mind is on his family and job when a case lands directly in his lap.

A prostitute is found murdered with her body laid out like a pentagram and her neck held to the ground with a pitchfork.

With the help of criminalist Perceval Grey and Helen Prescott, a historian with access to old documents, the parallels to the past quickly add up. Disturbingly, they determine that this woman might not be the first one.

The perpetrator, a brilliant mastermind using multiple pseudonyms from key figures of the historical witch trials, proves difficult to apprehend.

Grey plays Sherlock Holmes, utilizing keen insight and pre-forensic science to uncover the evidence necessary to capture the killer.

Prescott uses her deep knowledge of the past to provide plausible links to the present in the killer's mind. Lean brings the authority, muscle and judgment to put the various puzzle pieces together.

In a time before technology and the ability to check fingerprints, blood splatter and other key elements in a murder, it was difficult to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

By setting the story in 1892, Shields adds an extra level of intensity that makes it all work. Fans of historical thrillers will love "The Truth of All Things."

Throw in a Sherlock Holmes-like twist, and this first novel by Shields is a winner.

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