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The Truth of All Things: A Novel Hardcover – March 27, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Archie Lean Series

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Editorial Reviews


“This is a book that will appeal to readers who relish the intricacies of a Sherlockian plot….Strong characters and convincing historical detail make the novel work.” --Hallie Ephron, Boston Globe

“Maine has a fascinating new writer in Kieran Shields … whose dense and intriguing new novel … works its way into your bloodstream and takes you to dark places in New England history that will challenge your mind and shiver your skin.” – Maine Sunday Telegram
“Shields creates a pitch perfect atmosphere … Fans of historical thrillers will love ‘The Truth of All Things’ … a winner.” – The Associated Press
“A well paced and intriguingly contrived mystery … rollicking, entertaining, … The Truth of All Things has its own magic and once under its spell, it’s impossible to put down.” - Down East Magazine
“[An] outstanding debut … a gripping novel … Shields' characters are fascinating” – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Shields's stellar first novel plays ingenious variations on both the Holmesian omnipotent sleuth and the serial killer theme....Strong characters and a nively convoluted, intelligent plot bode well for any sequel."--Publishers Weekly (starred)

“The detailed historical information and the intricate mystery hold your attention to the last page in Shields’ startling debut.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Beautifully written and sprinkled with historical data….Shields, who is a native of Portland [Maine], offers meticulous research into the city’s history in this heart-pounding suspense that should delight any lover of period mysteries.”
Mystery Scene

"Kieran Shields has written a knuckle biting gothic mystery of ritual murder, revenge, and the harrowing heritage of witchcraft in New England. Readers will love exploring Shields' world of the eerie faces of nineteenth century Maine, from temperance societies to historical societies to whorehouses and everything in between. This rollicking tale puts an entirely new spin on the legacy of the Salem witch trials, and will keep lovers of historical fiction turning pages until the final gripping conclusion."
-Katherine Howe, New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

"This story brims with rich detail, the line between right and wrong smudged beyond recognition.  What a unique and claustrophobic world --- Maine at the turn of the 20th century --- but the ties to an unspeakable past are haunting and unmistakable.  It's a delight from start to finish.  A terrific story, told terrifically."--Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Jefferson Key

"It is hard to neatly categorize this novel, and I think to do so would be to miss out on the riches of Shields's storytelling. At once a literary novel and a work of historical fiction, this book is also equal parts great mystery and page-turning gothic-thriller." - - BookBrowse

About the Author

KIERAN SHIELDS grew up in Portland, Maine. He graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Maine School of Law.  He continues to reside along the coast of Maine with his wife and two children.  This is his first novel.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307720276
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307720276
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,523,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By michael a. draper VINE VOICE on January 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The novel describes the brutal events in 1892 in Portland, Maine. Maggie Keene's body is found. It appears to be a ritualistic killing with her body severely mutilated.

Deputy Marshall Archie Lean is the primary investigator but this case is like nothing he's ever seen. Dr. Virgil Steig asks one of his former students for help. Perceval Grey is a brilliant criminalist. He's part Abenaki Indian and a Pinkerton agent.

There are a number of uncanny similarities in this plot to Matthew Pearl's recent novel, "The Technologists."

This novel takes place in Portland, Maine in 1892, Pearl's mystery occurs in 1868 in Boston. Perceval Grey uses modern investigatory methods and possesses a unique understanding of people and possible motives. This is similiar to Marcus Mansfield in Pearl's novel. Mansfield is about to graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is scientific in his work.

Both men are ahead of their times in using the scientific method of investigating. In addition, there is a bright young woman helping with the investigation in both novels and both novels bring in witchcraft as having something to do with the story.

In "The Truth of All Things," the author demonstrates his talent for making his characters believable and worthy of our interest. However, this can result in some of the characters being rather like cardboard charactures.

The exception is Archie Lean. We become interested in him not only for his determination to solve the case but he is also a family man. He and his wife are expecting a child. Thier concern for their crowded home and the economics of an expanding family are things most readers can relate to.

Helen Prescott assists the investigators considerably.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a rich historical mystery set in 1892 Portland, Maine, complete with ritual murders, sinister madmen, secret societies, and seances.

Women in New England are being murdered, and their bodies displayed in gruesome fashion accompanied by strange symbolic objects and messages written in the Abenaki Indian language. Local deputy marshal Archie Lean and his colleagues aren't quite up to the task of solving the murder of Maggie Keene in Portland. The coroner brings in Perceval Grey, a half-Abenaki criminalist with a brilliant mind and a sparkling wit.
Grey and Lean work with the town librarian Helen Prescott to discover how the murders might be connected to the Salem witch trials of 200 years before.

Kieran Shields's first novel has atmosphere aplenty, and a wealth of historical detail that recreates Portland, Maine of 1892 in all the particulars. At times the story slows to a crawl while the author sets the scene for authenticity. This is more noticeable in the first half, and things pick up in the second half as the mystery gets more exciting.
Despite the slow patches, I have to go with four stars for the quality of the writing and the dedication to complexity in both plot and historical context.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kieran Shields debut novel, "The Truth of All Things," is a skillful nail-biting tale of criminal assault and historical fiction (i.e. Maine, 1892) spiced up with a liberal dose of paranormal allusion. This book opens with a particularly grisly find, a naked prostitute impaled with a pitchfork through her neck and a viciously carved cross on her chest.

The local constabulary, Archie Lean, and the coroner turn to private investigator, Percival Grey in a Holmes/Watson set up to solve the crime. Meanwhile other murders crop up, and shadows of the Salem Witch Trials fall upon the crimes. Author Shields' skill at developing this story with a complicated plot and masterfully developed characters is truly astounding. I found this an especially amazing discovery in a first novel. "The Truth of All Things" races in from the beginning with the reader held in its grip like a bone in the mouth of a terrier, never released until the final page. Bravo! to this talented new writer.

As but one small sample of the writer's skill, I found the following passage to be a delightful example of his use of language - and this is but one of the dozens of his creative, metaphorical views of the world.

... "He took out his pocket watch and angled his head back to peer over the tip of his nose where his reading glasses perched, two smudged, rotund lovers clasping wire hands and contemplating a united plunge, to end it all in one grand gesture."
A reader could perhaps discount this flight of fancy as "purple prose," were it not so perfectly attuned to that late Victorian time and place.

"The Truth of All Things" is a book I'll not forget. Put this one on your shelf when next you want a reading experience that "turns you every which way but loose."
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The story begins with a gruesome discovery in Victorian-era Portland, Maine. Police are called to a murder scene unlike anything they've witnessed before - the victim laid out in a ritualistic pose, her hand removed, her throat slashed, and a hastily scrawled phrase in an unknown tongue.

Former Pinkerton Detective Perceval Grey joins Deputy Marshall Archie Lean in delving into the why and how of the murder. Both men soon learn, however, that there is much more involved than meets the eye. Grey and Lean will have to reach back in time to old Salem Village and the Witch Hysteria that gripped New England before they have answers. They must follow a trail of secrets, lies, and human sacrifice to discover the truth.

At first glance, the reader is reminded vividly of Caleb Carr's The Alienist. The setting and the ritualistic nature of the murder scene contribute greatly to that. But then very early on we're introduced to Perceval Grey, and we begin to see another influence entirely.

Shields appears to have taken inspiration from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child in creating Grey. Except for his physical appearance, the similarities to Preston and Child's Special Agent A.X. L. Pendergast are striking. Both men come from the wealth and privilege of an old family name, both men are masters of disguise, both men almost Holmes-like in their observation and deductive reasoning skills. And both men have family drama in their pasts that have helped to shape their character and drive as investigators. Of course, both men are fairly tight-lipped about their pasts and private lives, sharing only what they must, when they must.

The interplay between Lean and Grey is certainly interesting.
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