x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Book review: KN Shields thriller resurrects Salem witches

Two-hundred years after the Salem Witch trials, a series of murders in Portland, Oregon forces investigators to hunt a killer inspired by the occult.

The Salem Witch Society
KN Shields

The title of the book is a giveaway: there's a secret organisation flourishing in the darkest shadows of the modern world, built on the myth and lore of the Salem Witch trials of 1692. And as with all legitimate thrillers, there's a series of murders being uncovered in the present that have everything to do with those long-past events.

The "present" is the year 1892, 200 years after the first witch hunt but before the advent of modern detective work. Still, the city of Portland calls on the tenacity of Deputy Marshal Archie Lean and the wits of private investigator Perceval Grey when the body of a prostitute is discovered in a lonely warehouse. Left with a cryptic message at the scene of the murder, the duo find themselves on the trail of a killer inspired by the Satanic rumours prevalent at the time of the witch burnings.

A decent premise manages to set this mystery apart from its peers, even as its conclusion - reminiscent of a B-grade Hollywood script - disappoints. As a debut, however, KN Shields is sure to find an audience with fans of historical thrillers.