cover image A Circle of Dead Girls

A Circle of Dead Girls

Eleanor Kuhns. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-9008-5

In Kuhns’s underwhelming eighth mystery set in the late 18th century (after 2019’s Simply Dead), weaver Will Rees is unsettled to spot his nemesis, circuit magistrate Piggy Hanson, who once drew up warrants falsely charging Rees with murder and his wife with witchcraft, in Durham, Maine, where a traveling circus is in town. Rees ducks inside the circus to avoid Hanson. Meanwhile, Leah, a 14-year-old member of a Shaker community, disappears after sneaking out of her family’s house to go see the circus; her strangled and raped corpse is soon found near a major roadway. The Durham constable, Simon Rouge, arrests a circus member, Pip Boudreaux, who appears to match a witness’s description of a horseman the witness saw riding away from the crime scene. Aware that Rouge may be mistaken, the Shakers hire Rees, who has a reputation as a sleuth, to conduct his own investigation, which leads him to consider Hanson as a suspect in Leah’s death and similar crimes around Maine. The credible period detail compensates only in part for an average whodunit plotline. Hopefully, Kuhns will return to form next time. (Mar.)