The Devil’s Cold Dish

A Will Rees Mystery #5

By Eleanor Kuhns


Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele

Synopsis:  the-devils-cold-dish

In the next 1790s historical mystery from MWA Award winner Eleanor Kuhns, Will Rees’ small farm town begins to suspect his wife of murder by witchcraft

Will Rees is back home on his farm in 1796 Maine with his teenage son, his pregnant wife, their five adopted children, and endless farm work under the blistering summer sun. But for all that, Rees is happy to have returned to Dugard, Maine, the town where he was born and raised, and where he’s always felt at home. Until now. When a man is found dead – murdered – after getting into a public dispute with Rees, Rees starts to realize someone is intentionally trying to pin the murder on him. Then, his farm is attacked, his wife is accused of witchcraft, and a second body is found that points to the Rees family. Rees can feel the town of Dugard turning against him, and he knows that he and his family won’t be safe there unless he can find the murderer and reveal the truth…before the murderer gets to him first. (Goodreaads)


The Devil’s Cold Dish is a study in just how destructive envy and anger can be to a family’s livelihood and well being.  Suspenseful, well paced, and full of historical detail, it is an interesting and enjoyable trip back in time to post-Revolutionary War Maine.

Weaver Will Rees has returned to his childhood farm in Dugard, Maine, with hopes of settling into a regular routine with his pregnant wife Lydia, sixteen-year-old son David, and five adopted younger children.  He is a wanderer at heat and is quickly bored with the monotony of farm work.  Things heat up when a local man is murdered and all eyes turn to Rees as the perpetrator.  Rees, who has some anger issues, is guilty of fighting with Ward before he died, but he certainly did not kill him.  Additionally, rumors are swirling that Lydia is a witch.  To make things worse, his sister will not leave him alone wanting him to support her and her family.  When a second man is murdered and the scene staged to look like black magic is at play, Rees decides that Lydia is in real danger and ferries his family off, hopefully to safety.  Rees stays behind with intentions of finding out who has it in for him and unmask the true murderer.  When a third man is killed on Rees’s own property, he is in for the fight for his life to clear his name.

The Devil’s Cold Dish is the fifth book in the Will Rees Mystery series but the first book that I have had the opportunity to read.  Since I do not know all of the characters’ back stories, I had a hard time warming up to them all.  I cannot decide if I like Rees very much, but he is an intelligent man and seemingly devoted to his new family.  His family members and the town’s residents are anything but boring, and I am particularly curious to find out more about David.  The relationships are all complex making them realistic and believable.  Rees’s sister Caroline is the nastiest character in the book.  I had the urge to slap her in every scene in which she appeared.  

The mystery itself is well executed, and I like that it is such a personal endeavor for Rees.  His vested interest adds suspense.  He has obviously rubbed most of the town residents the wrong way so there are plenty of people to suspect of having it out for him.  I did guess who is behind it all about midway through the book, but the danger to Rees and wanting to know the how and why of things kept me reading, rushing to get to the end.

The Devil’s Cold Dish is a well written historical mystery.  I confess that I enjoy the historical aspects more than the actual mystery this time around.  I will definitely go back and read this series from the beginning.  Though the book can be read as a standalone, I think reading from the start of the series would enrich the experience.  I recommend this to fans of historical literature, especially those interested in the early days of America.