cover image Simply Dead

Simply Dead

Eleanor Kuhns. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8884-6

A teenage midwife named Hortense goes missing in Kuhns’s solid seventh whodunit set in late-18th-century Maine (after The Shaker Murders). Will Rees, a weaver who’s also a skilled investigator, joins the hunt for Hortense, who disappears after helping a family with a smooth delivery. Rees finds Hortense, shoeless and almost frozen to death, in the snowy woods. When she revives, Hortense provides few details about what happened, though a reference to seeing “so much blood” suggests that she witnessed an act of violence. Rees becomes convinced that Hortense is not telling all she knows, and the matter takes a personal turn when his daughter Jerusha is attacked by two young men who initially mistook her for Hortense. For her safety, Hortense is soon sent to a nearby Shaker community, where a murder ups the ante. The plot twists rank among the author’s most clever. Historical fiction fans will be pleased. (Aug.)